Preparedness Corner
December 2003
By Paul Vircsik

Hi Neighbors,

It is December.  More pressing news control the airwaves and newsprint, but some of the old news still goes on.  The Santa Fe Trail Ranch fire, I mean the Cedar fire is not yet controlled.  It is contained, but not yet out, extinguished, controlled.  Hot spots causing flare-ups that then burn an acre or ten occur daily.  There are spotters working around the clock who then dispatch units to mop up yet another fire within the total burn area.  This will last until mid December.  In some areas the residents are still not able to go back to their property due to the fire danger.  In any forest/wildland fire pockets of unburned fuel exist because of the topography and weather that is present when a fire passes through an area.  They will burn later or be burned to stop the danger of future fire starts.  During the fire air quality was 275 microns over the entire county.  The healthy limit is around 120 depending on temperature and elevation.  In most areas it is back to normal limits unless the winds blow which picks up the light ash and the skies become brown again for the day.  Then the process of sweeping and washing is repeated.  The pictures are shocking so you probably didn’t notice while watching the news and viewing the fire damage on web sites that defensible space wasn’t useful.  It helped the firefighters protect homes they sat on but in the big picture the fire was too intense and homes were lost that had wonderful clearance.  Mother Nature was pissed off that week and we paid dearly.  So ends another major fire that could happen any where in the nation as the fire season passes.  Or is it really over.

Take a person, any person, filled with dreams for a new home.  A loan is secured and a standard insurance policy is purchased.  Closing papers are signed until there is no more ink in the pen and the papers are read with glossy eyes.  Moving day and the whole encyclopedia of documents is put in a drawer.  Does anyone really read them cover to cover and moreover understand everything within? There are than 2000 people looking for that information right now.  Looking because it was lost to the fire and they must take the word of the people on the other end of the phone or table as to what their coverage truly covered.  After I moved I took some items to an antique store.  The owner was on the phone so I waited.  She was talking to a fire victim about antiques and insurance companies.  Since she didn’t have receipts or pictures for the pieces the policy would not cover them for their worth.  They became part of the pile that becomes “personal property”.  They are now covered for whatever the policy says it will pay.  Articles in the paper daily report this scene as fire victims tell their tales of loss and reality check.  The firefighter that I work with who lost his home got his picture taken in front of his chimney.  The house was covered but he had cancelled the personal property part due to cost.  He was also selling one of his cars so that was not covered since he no longer drove it.  Another victim had just paid off their home and had cancelled all insurance while looking for new coverage due to the policy date and increase in fees.  All gone.  Hind site is biting a lot of victims over these normal day-to-day decisions.

Preparedness also encompasses the record keeping, placement of them and the thought of what if.  “What if”, the little common sense light bulb that turns on when you think of doing something that maybe should not.  Oh, you can what if yourself to death over the most mundane matters and they will rattle around in your brain at night while trying to get to sleep.  Pick your important ones like you pick your battles.  For those of us who aren’t good at picking the right battles, ask those who are.  Don’t know if you are a good battle chooser? Look around you at the outcome of your choices.  If there is a lot of head shaking or laughter, start asking.  The people who can’t pick, and don’t ask become the neighbors you must watch out for, or watch out for.  You pick.

I know this was a “someone else’s” fire.  I also know that if any major event isn’t thought of as a “what if it happened here” event, and it ever does, you could be the one sitting on the other side of the table with the burned out bulb.

I know I say this each month and I truly mean it, even with all the distractions and catastrophes of daily life.  See you all soon,

PS  Remember to be careful with your fireplace, candles and heaters this month.  Baby its cold outside.

Meet the author: Read about Paul Vircsik's background