This is Wildfire awareness month. Be aware and be prepared it can happen to you or a family member tomorrow. Two close members of the survival gear community have seen the horrific nature of these fires first hand. The owner of Guardian Survival Gear and his Fulfillment Manager both had parents lose everything they owned to Wildland fires. To follow are some facts you must know and the story of one of these individuals mentioned along with some tips to get you through this devastating season.
Wildland fires are a serious threat to lives and property in the U.S. The combination of drought, warmer temperatures, high winds and an excess of dried vegetation in forests and grasslands have made fire seasons progressively worse over the past 50 years. In the last decade, wildfires have burned over 80 million acres of these lands. According to the National Inter-agency Fire Center (NIFC), 2015 saw one of the worst fire seasons in decades, with over 10 million acres burned.
Wildfire Facts and figures
- According to the NIFC, 2015 saw more than 68,000 wildfires burn over 10 million acres.
- The U.S. Forest Service reports that 2015 was also the most expensive wildfire season on record, costing $1.71 billion for the year. This total surpasses the previous record of $1.67 billion set in 2002.
- A total of 4,636 structures were destroyed by wildfires in 2015, including more than 2,600 homes and more than 100 commercial buildings
- The National Association of State Foresters (NASF) cites more than 72,000 U.S. communities are at risk from wildfires.
Daniel Kunz’s Story of His Parent’s Loss
In 2007 wildfires raged through San Diego County leaving a wide trail of destruction in their wake. Glenn and Shari Kunz and their son David were living in the area but remained largely unconcerned by the fires moving in their direction. News broadcasts had promised that residents of threatened areas would receive a phone call notifying them when to evacuate the area. For the Kunz’s family, the fact that they hadn’t received this call meant that they were safe from imminent danger.
At the same time their son, Daniel, was in Idaho watching news broadcasts that displayed images of raging walls of fire headed in the direction of his family home. Daniel called his parents several times urging them to begin evacuating the area but the Kunz family was reluctant to leave their home without the promised phone call from the authorities.
The phone call never came. Before they knew it, it was too late for them to gather their precious belongings. The danger was too close at hand and their escape had to be executed as quickly as possible. Thankfully, the Kunz family had recently placed all important and essential documents into their Guardian Survival Kits. Grabbing their backpacks, they exited their home and drove away in time to see massive blazes consuming the world around them.
Days later after the all-clear had been given, the entire Kunz family returned to their home to see what remained. The house had a steel structure and the expectation was at least the basic foundation of the home would remain intact. Instead, what they found was charred ash and melted steel. Their home was gone. All of their worldly belongings including every remnant of Daniel, David & their sister, Jaime s childhood were erased. Seeing the wreckage was harrowing, but the Kunz family was grateful that they’d survived.
Thankfully the Kunz family escaped without harm and were prepared with their survival kit ready to go when the need arose. Being prepared is the first step to a positive outcome when disaster strikes. Be sure to understand what you can do in order to protect your property from Wildfires such as:
- 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.
Creating an emergency plan
- Assemble an emergency supply kit such as the Guardian Survival Gear Wildfire 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 neighborhood and designate a meeting place.
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.
- Place your emergency supply kit and other valuables in your vehicle.
- Move patio or deck furniture, cushions, doormats and potted plants in wooden containers either indoors or as far away from the home, shed or garage as possible.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 neighborhood clears roads for firefighters to get equipment in place to fight the fire, and helps ensure residents safety.
Please do all you can to prepare and protect your family and friends from the disaster that is Wildfire. Thank you to NFPA for the helpful tips to get you through this season.