As the Gladiator fire burns near Crown King, the Forest Service is preparing contingency plans for Walker and Groom Creek. Obviously, the hope is that these contingency plans won't be needed. But, in the meantime, homeowners in vulnerable areas can get busy and make sure their home is protected from fire.
There's not enough time to do all of the recommended things, such as replacing roof shingles with fire resistant varieties. But, there are some steps that can be taken right now, to help make your homes safer in the event of a wildfire.
At this time, according to the Groom Creek Fire Department website, "...there is no need to evacuate, and there are no plans for any evacuations... AGAIN – We cannot stress enough – that there is no concern from fire officials that Groom Creek or surrounding communities will need to evacuate. This is for general information only."
1. Move any wood piles away from your home. Make sure you pick up any kindling and smaller pieces of wood, too. You want a 3-5 foot area around the perimeter of your home that is "fuel free". According to firewise.org, "...no flammable mulch, woodpiles, or plants that can allow fire to touch the house."
2. Clear your roof and gutters of debris and pine needles.
3. Rake all pine needles and dead leaves away from your home.
4. Trim overhanging branches and bushes near your home.
5. Clean out the area beneath your decks, also the surface areas.
6. Make sure any nearby weeds are trimmed, mowed or weed-whacked.
6. Make sure your screens have metal mesh.
7. Make sure that trees within 30 feet of your home are healthy and spaced apart. "If your home is on a slope, thin out vegetation to a further distance (50 to 100 feet) to slow fire’s spread as it approaches uphill," suggests Firewise.org.
If You Have to Evacuate
1. Make sure all entrances, windows and other openings are shut tightly. Close shutters, heavy drapes and all window coverings.
2. Turn off fuel from propane tanks or gas lines at the tank or meter.
3. Back as many vehicles as possible into your garage. Shut the door tightly behind you as you leave.
4. Wet down the roof if you can. If you use a ladder, place it on the opposite side of the home from the direction of the fire.
5. Don't be foolish. If you get an evacuation notice, pay attention, and leave when it's necessary. Not only does it mean you and your family are safer, but it will free up the firefighting personnel to do their job more efficiently.
6. Don't forget your pets. There are services available to help you care for your pets in the event of an evacuation. Bring vet records if possible.
7. Bring essential items: medication, clothing for a minimum of 4 days, grooming items. If possible, grab irreplaceable photos, laptops, computers and electronic devices. If necessary, grab your computer, but leave the monitor. That way you'll have the data saved. If you can't fit in your entire computer, remove the hard drive if possible. (Another hint: Back up your data regularly in a location separated from your home.)
Here is the Groom Creek Fire Department Emergency Evacuation Information page, which is very helpful.
Long Term Planning
1. Make sure your roof is non-combustible. Use non-combustible siding if planning a new home.
2. Make sure your windows are double paned. Use metal mesh screens.
3. Choose appropriate, firewise plants for landscaping. Here's some great information on that: Firewise Plant Materials for 3,000 Ft. and Higher Elevations
4. Ensure your chimney is cleaned regularly.
5. Clear any potential fuel item away from the house. Try to have a 30-100 foot space around the entire perimeter of all structures.
6. Create a list of essential items you must take if it becomes necessary to evacuate. Remember medications, clothing for about 4 days, irreplaceable papers, documents and photos. If possible, grab your computer or laptop, and other electronic devices. And, don't forget your pets! There are services provided to help you care for your pets in the event of an evacuation.
7. Back up all your computer data in a separate location. Create copies of important documents such as:
- birth certificates
- marriage licenses
- shot records
- account numbers
- important phone numbers and addresses
and put them in a remote location for safekeeping.
8. Call your local fire department. Many of them receive grants to help you get your home firewise at little or no cost.
9. Have a designated meeting place for your family to gather in case your home catches fire.
10. Do in-home fire drills - where to go, what to grab, what to do. With larger families, create a buddy system and note who is in charge of small children.
Local Fire Departments
Wildfire: Prevent Home Ignition