Sky Clouds Storm Fire Trees SunsetHouse fire







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Wildfires are as unpredictable and as uncontrollable as the winds that drive them.  Fire moves dangerously fast and is powerful, wild, and erratic.

Firsthand accounts from people who experienced a fast-approaching wildfire…

One woman states that she felt panic when she saw the flames on the ridge behind her house.

Another woman ran upstairs to get her purse and car keys and by the time she ran back downstairs her house was on fire.

It all happened amazingly fast. The winds were out of control with a blizzard of big chunks of embers. One man compared it to Armageddon.

On man told his daughter to pack like we’re not coming back.

For those who live in beautiful, natural areas, and enjoy the quality of life of what firefighters refer to as the “wildland urban interface,” also must face the risk of wildfires.

Knowing that fires are part of the ecology of such areas, it is critical to prepare in advance by implementing an emergency plan to ensure your home, family, and pets are ready in the event a wildfire occurs.


Fire Weather

The National Weather Service has identified firestorms as a true force of nature that is directly affected by weather patterns.  For example, in the Texas plains, the grasses that occur during winter and late spring cause wildfires to spread very fast over large distances.  These fires travel 3 to 6 miles per hour, which is equivalent to the distance of 2 football fields in one minute.

During the fire season, the National Weather Service is able to forecast fire weather by determining if the influence of weather indicates firestorms or large multiple occurrence fires.  When dangerous fire conditions are indicated, red flag information and warnings are now able to be issued days in advance.

Firestorms are incredibly powerful and not much can stop them, even crossing over 8-lane interstate highways.  In most cases what finally stops a large wildfire is a change in the weather, for example if the wind stops blowing or changes direction and the relative humidity rises.


Wildfire Ready Action Planning

Take care of tasks listed below to protect your home so that you will be ready to evacuate early.

Hardening the Home With Fire Resistant Features

Local fire departments can provide you with information on how you can add or retrofit your home with with fire resistive building construction features that will protect your home from flames, radiant heat, and ember intrusion.

Defensible Space Around The Home

Create 3 zones of defensible space around your house to serve as a buffer between the flame front of a fire and your home.

Zone 1: 15 feet free of vegetation around structures

If possible remove all trees in this zone. If trees are within 15 feet of a structure, treat the tree as if it were part of the structure and extend the defensible space 15 feet from the tree(s).

Zone 2: 75 to 125 feet from the structure

Prune trees so branches are no lower than 10 feet from the ground.

Remove shrubs from under crowns of trees, eliminating fuel ladders.

Keep grass in this area at 6 to 8 inches.

Stack woodpiles 30 feet from structures and 10 feet from vegetation

Zone 3: To the edge of the property

Thin trees in this extended area

Additional Home Fire Readiness

Clear the roof and gutters of debris

Remove any branches overhanging the roof

Check chimney screens for proper installation and in good condition

Have an outdoor water supply available, including hose that reaches all parts of the house

Check fire extinguishers

Confirm driveway will accommodate fire and emergency vehicles

Make sure house number is easily visible to emergency responders


Fire Gel

A fire gel coating can be easily applied with a garden hose just hours before a wildfire reaches a home.  The gel coating will last from 6 to 36 hours, the thicker you apply it the longer it lasts. If it starts to dry up you can re-moisten the gel by misting it with water.

Depending on water pressure, it will take approximately 30 minutes to cover an average size home.

Fire Evacuation Plan

Comply with evacuation orders early.  Most fatalities occur when people wait too long to evacuate and are overtaken by a fast-moving fire.

Evacuating early also assists firefighting efforts by opening up roadways and allowing firefighters to move around the area more freely.

Don’t wait until it’s too late.  In the video below, see live footage of people who waited to evacuate until they barely had enough time to escape the area.  It could have ended very badly.  One wrong wind gust and they could have been trapped.

Evacuation Tips

Have evacuation plans in place ahead of time.  Evacuation orders may be issued at anytime so make sure to plan for evacuation for each location where you may be, such as home, work, and school.

  • Evacuate Early
  • Know which local TV and Radio Stations will be providing emergency information and evacuation instructions
  • Know where you will be going (emergency shelter, hotel, or with an out of town family member or friend)
  • Have a list of emergency numbers, including:
  • Red Cross
  • Hotel
  • Family members
  • Pharmacy
  • Doctors
  • School
  • Work
  • Know the best routes to get out of town
  • Keep at least a half tank of gas in your car
  • Call your out of town contact person and let them know you are safe and where you are going

Have a plan in place & practice ahead of time

  • Where to meet family members
  • How to contact family members
  • Have an out-of-town contact person
  • School & Workplace evacuation procedures
  • Plan for pets –     make sure a hotel or shelter allows pets
  • If time allows, secure your home before leaving

Have an evacuation kit for your home and your car, including:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Personal essentials
  • First aid kit
  • Prescription medications
  • Extra eyeglasses
  • Heavy duty work gloves
  • Battery operated or crank radio
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries
  • Important papers: Insurance policies, deeds, social security cards, medical records
  • Change of clothes
  • Sturdy shoes
  • Bedding
  • Comfort items such as books, card games, etc.
  • For 2- or 3-story homes have an emergency fire escape ladder

Check expiration dates every 6 months on the items in each kit.

When Returning Home After Evacuation

  • Check for damages such as gas leaks & electrical problems
  • Make sure drinking water is safe by listening to local authorities
  • Throw out any contaminated food




Most Common House Fires:

#1 – Cooking Related Fires

#2 – Heating and Air Conditioning Malfunctions

Cooking related fires are the most common cause of all house fires, followed by heating and air conditioning system malfunctions as the second most common cause of house fire.

Most of these types of house fires are preventable.  Kitchen fires can be avoided by being aware of basic fire hazards such as wearing long sleeves or loose clothing near cooking flames; by not leaving pots unattended on the stove; make sure you have the proper fire extinguisher close by in case of a grease fire, etc.

Make sure your heating and air conditioning systems are in good working condition. Other precautions that can be taken to minimize the risk of fire involving heating and air conditioning units are making sure you don’t have combustable materials stored close by, and so on.


Clothes Dryers: Another Leading Cause Of House Fires











In this CBS news video we learn some hidden dangers of clothes dryers that are known to cause over 15,000 house fires each year.  Without proper maintenance this major household appliance can ignite in an instant and cause a deadly house fire in minutes.

Most everyone knows they need to clean the lint trap every time you use your dryer in order to ensure there is proper airflow and prevent the dryer from overheating and catching on fire.

Another prevention of dangerous heat build-up in clothes dryers that many of us also aware of is to perform a yearly maintenance of the exhaust pipe/vent, checking to ensure it is free lint build-up or any other type of obstruction.

Pay attention if your dryer is taking longer to dry your clothes. That is a clear warning sign that something is not working properly, causing a serious fire hazard.

The following hidden cause of fire in clothes dryers may come as a surprise to many.  The list below includes items that should not be placed in the clothes dryer.

Items that can ignite causing spontaneous combustion

  • Rags stained with gasoline or motor oil
  • Items stained with cooking oil, such as dish towels, napkins, aprons, etc.

Note:  Even after being washed with detergent, residual oil will remain and these items could still ignite.

Items containing rubber, plastic, or foam

  • Plastic pants for baby diapers
  • Rubber-backed throw rugs
  • Foam-padded bras

Line dry these types of items outside or somewhere else in your house.

A good rule of thumb suggested in this news report is to never run your dryer when you leave the house or while you are sleeping so you will be awake and able to take action in the event of an unexpected fire caused by your clothes dryer.

One other precaution you can take that was not mentioned in this video relates to  the use of “dryer sheets.” Fabric softener sheets can cause an invisible residue to collect on and clog your lint trap screen.  You can check to see if this is happening by periodically running your lint trap under running tap water and see if the water freely flows through the screen.  If not, simply wash with hot soapy water to remove this residue.


Smoking: Another Common Preventable House Fire

It’s tragic when you consider the number of lives that are lost in house fires caused by smoking each year.  It’s even more tragic when you realize that each fire resulting from smoking materials, was preventable and occurred needlessly.

Unfortunately, such fires not only affect the smoker who accidentally caused the fire, but also anyone else in the home — family and friends of all ages including children and the elderly.  Often times neighboring structures also catch fire affecting even more lives.

Fire Safety Tips For Smokers

  • Smoke outside
  • Use a deep, wide ashtray placed on sturdy tables
  • Douse cigarette butts and ashes with water or in sand before throwing them out.
  • Only smoke when you are alert. Never smoke when you are sleepy, when you have been drinking, or when you are taking medications or drugs that could possibly cause drowsiness.
  • Do not smoke in bed
  • The following items are most likely to ignite in a fire:
  • Mattresses and Bedding
  • Upholstered Furniture
  • Trash Containers
  • Make sure no cigarette butts have fallen out of view: such as under cushions or pillows; onto the rug or floor; or under the bed, sofa, or chair
  • Do not smoke in a home where oxygen is being used

Fires started as a result of smoking materials are 100% preventable. Every smoker has a responsibility to be aware of how easily an accidental smoking hazard can occur; and of course, follow the basic fire safety tips above to avoid deadly consequences.




What To Do In A Fire

Important:  Circumstances in each fire varies widely depending on many factors.

  • Are you in a single story family home, a multi-story apartment building, or in a high
  • rise office building or hotel?
  • Is the fire on a floor level below or above your location?
  • Is your escape route blocked?
  • What kind of fire is it?
  • Should you, or can you, attempt to leave the building?

During a fire emergency you will have to assess the situation and determine which fire safety instructions are best for your particular circumstances.

The following tips provide fire safety actions for various scenarios.

Fire Safety Steps

  • Warn others in the house or building

If you decide you should  leave the building

  • Leave immediately – fire spreads extremely quickly:
  • Before opening doors:
  • Check if the door handle is hot
  • Check if the door itself is hot, beginning from the bottom to the top
  • -if you feel a hot draft or feel
  • -if you hear or feel air pressure
  • -if you see or smell smoke
  • -if you see fire
  • Close doors when you leave (but leave doors unlocked)
  • Activate fire alarms (if applicable)
  • Do not use elevators
  • If heavy smoke is in all stairwells of a multi-story building, return to your apartment or office.
  • If there is heavy smoke:
  • If possible, place a wet cloth over your mouth and nose
  • Crawl as low as possible under the smoke
  • When safely outside call 911

If you are unable to get out of the building due to fire or heavy smoke:

  • *Close all doors you are able to safely access.  Leave unlocked for firefighters.
  • *Seal cracks under doors, air vents, and any other openings where smoke is coming in by using wet towels, sheets, duct tape, aluminum foil, or whatever you have available.
  • *If circumstances allow, use an ink marker to write any messages for firefighters on the door, windows, or a cloth.
  • *Go to a balcony or the safest room
  • *Open a window for air.  If smoke enters the window close it immediately.
  • *Stay low to the floor to avoid rising heat and toxic gases.
  • *Wave a white towel or sheet to signal firefighters or hang a bright colored cloth to indicate your location.
  • *Wait for firefighters to rescue you. Do not panic or jump. Remain calm.
  • *Listen for instructions from the authorities either over the building intercom system or the firefighters’ megaphone.
  • *If possible, keep a flashlight with you in the event of power outage and also to help firefighters locate you in the darkness of the smoke.
  • *If you have access to water, fill a plastic pail or trash can with water and keep it near you.
  • *If smoke is heavy in the room, in addition to breathing through a wet washcloth, soak a cotton bed sheet with water and make a tent next to an open window.



Fire Safety For Children (and adults too!)

In this video, young Michael and his family have done an excellent job in creating a home fire emergency plan using the following steps:

Install smoke alarm(s) in the home and teach children the following:

  • What the smoke alarm sounds like:  A very loud beep.
  • What would make the smoke alarm beep:  A fire in the house.
  • What should they do if they hear the smoke alarm:  Get out fast!

Draw a map of your home, including the following items on the map:

  • Label each room in your house
  • Include door openings & window locations
  • Show where the smoke alarm is located
  • With a different color, draw a line that shows possible exit paths during a fire
  • For example, Michael’s emergency exit path is:

1) If it’s safe, go directly to his parents’ room and he knew to crawl if there’s a lot of smoke


2) If it’s not safe to use the door, he should go out through the window and go to the neighbor’s house.

Another important thing to do with children when preparing a Fire Emergency Plan is to have practice fire drills every 3 to 6 months to help familiarize and remind kids of what they need to do in the event of an actual fire emergency.


What To Do If Your Clothes Catch Fire

Stop, Drop, & Roll

If your clothes catch on fire, stop, get down on the floor or ground. Running and moving around will only feed the fire with more oxygen.

Once you get down on the ground, cover your face with your hands and repeatedly roll over until the flames are out.


First Aid For Burns

Before treating a burn you must assess the depth and damage of the burn injury and if warranted call for emergency services/paramedics.

Determine if burn is 1st, 2nd, or 3rd Degree

  • First Degree Burn: Reddening
  • Second Degree Burn: Blistering of the skin
  • Third Degree Burn:  Charring or blackening of the skin

Weakness, nausea, or vomiting could indicate an life threatening injury…call for emergency services immediately.

First Aid for 1st Degree Burns

Emergency first aid for first degree burns would be to run cool water (not ice cold) from the tap or a pitcher over the burn area for 10 minutes.  If you’re unable to get running water to the burn, you can use a wet washcloth to cool down the burn area.

First Aid for 2nd & 3rd Degree Burns

If necessary, expose the burn injury by cutting and gently lifting away clothing covering the burned area. If clothing is stuck to the burn, do not remove it.

It is also important to remove any jewelry the person is wearing before swelling occurs. If this is not done then circulation will be affected and the jewelry will later need to be cut off.

Cool the burn area with cotton or synthetic material that is soaked with water, placing it gently over the burn injury site. Continue cooling for approximately 15 minutes to reduce swelling and pain.

Do not pop the blisters as that will cause infection. If blisters do pop, apply antibiotic ointment.

Do not apply ointments such as butter or oil to any burn.

After cooling the burn for 10 to 15 minutes, apply a sterile dressing (or a clean cloth material if a sterile dressing is unavailable) to the burn area.  Tape the dressing and wrap it with gauze to hold it in place. Keeping the burn as clean as possible will greatly reduce the chance of infection.

Second and third degree burns of a significant size should be treated by medical personnel immediately.


Types of Fire Extinguishers

Types Of Fire Extinguishers

Class A: Ordinary Combustibles Like Wood or Paper

Class B: Flammable Liquids Petroleum Products & Solvents

Class C: Electrical Fires

Class D: Metals Fires

Water is not the best extinguisher for all fires. For example, using water for Class B & Class C fires could have dangerous results.

Check the label on the outside of the extinguisher to determine which class or classes of fire it may be used for.


How To Use Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are intended for small fires and most only operate for 8 to 10 seconds

Use fire extinguishers with your back toward an escape route.

An easy method to help remember how to use a fire extinguishers is the P.A.S.S. method:

P – Pull the pin

A – Aim at the base of the fire

S – Squeeze the handle

S –  Sweep the base of the fire – do not aim high at the flames