The tragic death of 19 firefighters in Yarnell, AZ, was a sobering reminder of the danger that wildfires pose to everyone, even those trained to deal with such conditions. Since fire season is far from over in the American West (in fact, California officials are predicting that 2013 could be one of the worst years for fires in recent memory), we at MedEvent911 thought now would be a good time to share some basic wildfire safety tips.
First, remember that many wildfires are started by people. You can prevent a tragedy by taking simple steps, such as not leaving campfires unattended, calling the fire department or park service if you notice a fire (no matter how small), and being careful to completely extinguish cigarettes before disposing of them. Explain to children the danger of playing with matches and cigarette lighters.
More and more Americans are living in areas that are susceptible to wildfire. If you live in a wildfire-prone area, have a plan for what you will do if a fire occurs. Have an escape route planned (ideally, more than one route) and have emergency supplies or critical items you'll want to take with you easily accessible.
If you hear an evacuation order, follow it right away. As the incident in Yarnell demonstrated, fires are unpredictable. Delaying evacuation could be deadly. If you have time before you evacuate your home, shut off the gas and fill large vessels (like a tub or pool) with water to help ward off the blaze. Wear protective clothing (like long pants) when you evacuate.
You can also protect your home by taking some straightforward preventative measures. Clear brush and debris from around your house. Landscape with fire-resistant plants. Keep combustible materials (like firewood, gasoline, or oily rags) far away from your home. Prune branches and shrubs that are close to your residence.
If you are caught in a wildfire, know how to respond. Don't try to out-run the fire. Instead, crouch in a body of water (like a creek or pond), if one is available. If there's no body of water, stay low to the ground in a cleared area with minimal vegetation, and cover yourself with a wet blanket or soil.
Wildfires are sometimes tragic, but with proper preparation, you can reduce the chances that you, your family, or your property will come to harm.