In any daydream about a camping vacation or getaway, there is a campfire. In every imagined Independence Day celebration, there are fireworks. In none of those pleasant imaginings is there a scenario …
In any daydream about a camping vacation or getaway, there is a campfire. In every imagined Independence Day celebration, there are fireworks. In none of those pleasant imaginings is there a scenario where someone’s celebration burns down another’s home, takes their livelihood or even their lives.
But with fire that can be the reality of a happy experience taken for granted. It can even be the fallout of something simple. For example, a flat tire that goes unnoticed on a towed vehicle can emit sparks. Those sparks can drop off onto dry vegetation along a highway or road, take off and get out of control very quickly.
Last year, 4 million acres were burned in California wildfires, some a result of powerlines damaged by high winds. Those sparks set off deadly wildfires which, pushed by the same winds, quickly became a conflagration.
Already in our region, there have been multiple fires and structures lost just north of the border in the Robertson Draw Fire. As the weather forecast remains warm and mostly clear with fire weather watches interspersed, it is a very good idea to make preparations to have a safe, fire-free summer. Some of those preparations to take before heading out to your favorite camping spot or fishing hole include:
Be sure recreation vehicles have operating spark arrestors.
Do not park vehicles in dry, grassy areas as residual heat from exhaust systems can ignite the dry grass.
Know the current wildfire risk in your county, destination, or area you may be working in. Welding a broken fence bracket can be a serious oversight.
If you have a campfire, ensure there is a shovel and buckets of water close by, and never walk away from a smoldering campfire. Put the fire out cold before leaving — if it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave.
Be careful not to set a hot tool down on dry grass or leaves.
Allow power engines to cool before refueling, and make sure the hot exhaust is kept away from dry grasses, weeds and shrubs. Only use such equipment that’s in good repair and has spark arresters installed.
Stay home for an hour after finishing your work — this way you’ll be around to notice if anything begins to smolder and smoke.
Keep flammable objects (lawn mowers, oil or gas cans, propane tanks and wood piles) at least 30 feet away from the home at all times. Move flammables, such as lawn furniture and toys, during wildfire activity.
Keep roofs, gutters, decks and patios clear of leaves, pine needles or other flammables at all times.
Remove flammable mulch and vegetation within 5 feet of the home and replace with nonflammable material.
Remove tree or shrub branches that overhang within 10 feet of your house, roof or chimney.
Keep lawns watered and mowed, or if water-conserving, make sure debris is removed within 30 feet of home.
Trim tree limbs 10 feet above the ground (these are called ladder fuels).
Install 1/8-inch metal mesh screens over vents and under decks to prevent ember intrusion.
Fire safety doesn’t end there, either. Make sure you are familiar with escape routes from your home. Preferably, learn two ways to get to safety, in case one is blocked by the fire or traffic. Keep an eye on the weather and reports from any fires that may be burning nearby.
When the situation gets more serious, keep bags packed and in the vehicles. Make sure to include prescription medications, some cash, important documents and a few changes of clothing. Keep those vehicles gassed up.
If there are pets to consider, keep crates and feed on hand. If there is livestock on the property, be ready to either allow them to make their way to safety on their own (mark horse’s hooves with your phone number in paint or permanent marker) or be ready to trailer them with you. Remember animals may become frightened, fractious and hard to handle as fire approaches. Allow adequate time to get all the members of the family — two-legged as well as four — out of harm’s way.
Keeping an eye on weather, maintaining the immediate area around your home and taking extra precautions while camping or celebrating may seem counterproductive to a relaxing summer. But those extra precautions are far less stressful than trying to outrun a wildfire.