Wildfire Preparation

Many are forecasting a third year in a row of dry conditions in the Cowichan Valley.  With that comes the ever-present dangers of wildfires. Read and heed the following suggestions and be prepared should a wildfire break out near your home.

Not everyone thinks clearly in an emergency. A written, well-practiced plan, will help you remember what needs to be done during a crisis.

Discuss your plan with your kids so they become engaged and conscious of its importance. And, rehearse the plan so everyone knows what to do should an emergency arise.

Think through and plan for possible eventualities. What if you and your family are at work or school? What if you are having a party or friends are staying? Their survival may depend on you. What if your children are home alone?
Before a wildfire threatens, in and around your home clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks. This prevents embers from igniting your home. Remove dead vegetation and other items from under your deck or porch, and within 10 feet of the house.

Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating.

Remove flammable materials (firewood stacks, propane tanks) within 30 feet of your home’s foundation and outbuildings, including garages and sheds. If it can catch fire, don’t let it touch your house, deck or porch.

Wildfire can spread to tree tops. Prune trees so the lowest branches are 6 to 10 feet from the ground. Keep your lawn hydrated and maintained. If it is brown, cut it down to reduce fire intensity. Dry grass and shrubs are fuel for wildfire.

Don’t let debris and lawn cuttings linger. Dispose of these items quickly to reduce fuel for fire. Inspect shingles or roof tiles. Replace or repair those that are loose or missing to prevent ember penetration.

Cover exterior attic vents with metal wire mesh no larger than 1/8 inch to prevent sparks from entering the home. Enclose under-eave and soffit vents or screens with metal mesh to prevent ember entry.

Create an emergency plan. Assemble an emergency supply kit and place it in a safe spot. Remember to include important documents, medications and personal identification.

Develop an emergency evacuation plan and practice it with everyone in your home. Plan two ways out of your neighbourhood and designate a meeting place. Choose a meeting place away from your home for family members to gather in case you are not together when a fire happens.

Designate a neighbour to evacuate your pets in case you are not able to get home during a fire.

Review your homeowner’s insurance policy and also prepare/update a list of your home’s contents. During the time a wildfire is in your area.

Stay aware of the latest news and updates from your local media and fire department. Get your family, home and pets prepared to evacuate.

Review your evacuation plan. Place your emergency supply kit and other valuables in your vehicle.

Be aware of where all family members are. Keep track of your pet(s), they could panic and run off.

Before you leave, prepare your house. Connect garden hoses and fill any pools, hot tubs, garbage cans, tubs, or other large containers with water. Firefighters have been known to use the hoses to put out fires on rooftops.

Move fire fighting tools (rakes, handsaws, chainsaws, axes, shovels, buckets) to a readily accessible location. They could be useful if a firefighter needs to grab a tool in an emergency. Keep a ladder handy to reach the roof.

Your house and it contents are dear to you but, please remember, it is just stuff. You have to ask yourself if it is worth risking your life and those of your loved ones should you choose to fight the fire yourself.

Teach each family member how to use a fire extinguisher (ABC type) and show them where it’s kept. Remove combustibles, including firewood, yard waste, barbecue grills, and fuel cans, from your yard.

Move patio or deck furniture, cushions, door mats and potted plants in wooden containers either indoors or as far away from the home, shed and garage as possible.
Close all windows, vents, and doors to prevent a draft. Close and protect your home’s openings, including attic and basement doors and vents, windows, garage doors and pet doors to prevent embers from penetrating your home. Shut off natural gas, propane, or fuel oil supplies.

Leave as early as possible, before you’re told to evacuate. Do not linger once evacuation orders have been given. Promptly leaving your home and neighbourhood clears roads for firefighters to get equipment in place to fight the fire and helps ensure residents’ safety.

When you evacuate. If you have time, use a hose to wet down your house, the roof and the surrounding area. Wear protective clothing and footwear to protect yourself from flying sparks and ashes.

Leave as early as possible, before you’re told to evacuate. Do not linger once evacuation orders have been given. Promptly leaving your home and neighbourhood clears roads for firefighters to get equipment in place to fight the fire and helps ensure residents’ safety.

Driving through a wildfire is extremely dangerous, and potentially life-threatening. A drive that would normally take five minutes could take two hours: Road closures, traffic jams, collisions, smoke, fallen trees and embers are all real possibilities. Be aware of the proximity of water (pond, lake, river, ocean).

In a dire emergency, water is your safest refuge.

Most of all, think ahead and think safety at all times!

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