Preparedness Corner
June 2002
By Paul Vircsik

Hi Neighbors,

Although the monsoon season from Mexico is starting and their first hurricane ďAlmaĒ is making its way north, we still suffer under a drought.  Like you didnít know.  Just look across any vista and see the dry fuel or smoke from distant fires.  The normal fire patterns that usually start in Florida, work there way across the northern states, then down to our neck of the woods, out to the northwest and finally California have disappeared.  They started in Florida and then everywhere else exploded at the same time.

Last month I told you about the extremely low fuel moistures.  This causes extreme fire behavior.  Flame lengths to 200 feet, with the front of the fire moving at 15 to 30 miles an hour.  For us that means more than 35 acres an hour.  For this season it is doubly important to prepare the outside and inside for anything coming.  Get those flammables away from your home.  The USFS is recommending 100 feet of fuel separation or defensible space instead of 30 feet.  Know what you are going to take with you in case you need to leave in a hurry and know how you are going to take it.  I have spoken many times on this subject so this should not be new.  Here is a quick re-cap:

A recent fire in February caused the latest loss of two fire engines due to embers sucked into the engine air filters.  Their first clue was the motor died.  Then smoke in the cabin.  One crew was able to remove the burning filter but the other vehicle was completely destroyed.  In either case, the vehicle had to be abandoned during a firestorm of embers.  In one case, there were no trees around, just the wind blowing the embers from the fire across the fields and roads.  Being outside during a firestorm with blowing embers is dangerous and without the protective clothing, these guys would have perished while attempting to get into other vehicles.

Be ready for your own car to quit.  Stay in the car where the air is clean.  The storm should not last very long and inside is better than out.  If the car starts to burn and you canít stand it, then look for a place to go, leave, stay together and keep your eyes and air passages covered.  The blanket you keep in the car will help.  Soak it with the gallon of water you always carry.  Cell phones donít work very well in smoke but try it anyway.  Know where you are at all times while you drive out so you can tell someone where you are.

All my neighbors have been wonderful preparing their properties for fire and in doing so may never see it at their homes.  I have seen this as I drive the ranch and it makes for a healthier forest.  Being ready is always better than being burnt.  Be careful this season.

See you all in June,

Meet the author: Read about Paul Vircsik's background