by Daisy Luther via The Organic Prepper blog,
have been particularly bad the past few years. It’s part of
the reason my family and I moved out of California. (Only part
– the laws there are crazy!)
while this year seems worse than ever, the first 6 months are it’s
actually not quite as bad as last year, according to the National
Interagency Fire Center.
far this year, we’ve seen 37591 fires and 4,810,195 acres have
burned. By this time last year, there
had been 39,227 fires and 5,639,919 acres had been devastated. Of
course, this is of little comfort to those dealing with this
year’s fires. And right now, wildfires are burning across the
nation, from Alaska, all the way to Florida. Here’s the current
map from the NOAA that shows where the fires are.
basically, everywhere west of Chicago with a couple in the east.
causing all these fires?
course, the headlines are all breathlessly
claiming that the fires are due to climate change because
that’s the current agenda in the straw-seizing, politically
the fact is, they’re caused by people. 90%
of the fires that are burning and have burned in the United States
have been caused by the carelessness or deliberate intent of human
beings. The US Department of the Interior says:
can be caused by nature - mostly due to lightning strikes - but
the vast majority are caused by humans. Research estimates
that 90 percent of wildland fires in the United States are
caused by people. Some human-caused fires result from campfires
left unattended, the burning of debris, and intentional acts of
arson. It can also be caused unintentionally by heat and sparks
from vehicles and equipment. Public education and personal
responsibility can greatly reduce the number of wildfires each
anyone else remember the Smokey Bear ads? “Only YOU can prevent
forest fires?” Something tells me
they need to bring Smokey back to teach people how to enjoy nature
more responsibly. But human error is only part of the issue.
fires are more intense now because of the increased fuel loads.
Dry grass, unchecked forest growth, and brush all add to the
intensity and speed at which a fire burns.
are three conditions that need to be present in order for a
wildfire to burn, which firefighters refer to as the fire
triangle: fuel, oxygen, and a heat source. Fuel is any flammable
material surrounding a fire, including trees, grasses, brush,
even homes. The greater an area’s fuel load, the more intense
the fire. Air supplies the oxygen a fire needs to burn. Heat
sources help spark the wildfire and bring fuel to temperatures
hot enough to ignite. Lightning, burning campfires or
cigarettes, hot winds, and even the sun can all provide
sufficient heat to spark a wildfire…
weather and drought convert green vegetation into bone-dry,
flammable fuel; strong winds spread fire quickly over land; and
warm temperatures encourage combustion. (source)
policies that were designed in an effort to protect forests are
actually responsible for destroying them because it’s increasing
the fuel load for wildfires. A lack of forest management and yes,
logging, has created forests so dense that it only takes a spark
for them to go up in flames, and all of the fuel results in an
intense, fast-moving blaze.
drought conditions make everything worse, and California has been
on-and-off in a drought forever – or at least the
past hundred years.
have always happened.
have long been nature’s method of forest management. The US
Department of the Interior explains:
has always been a natural process that is essential to healthy
ecological systems. In the early 1900s, land management agencies
sought to suppress all fires in an effort to preserve the timber
supply. Over the decades, fire exclusion led to more living and
dead vegetation on the landscape, increasing the fuel and as a
result, the risk of large wildfires in our forests, rangelands,
and near communities. (source)
report from the Clemson University newspaper said:
has always been a natural occurrence in our ecosystem that has
many benefits,” said Derrick Phinney, a Clemson
Cooperative Extension natural resources division
leader based in Dorchester. “As far back as the American
Indians, fire was a main staple of forest management. Whether
intentionally set or started by lightning strikes, fire
regenerates forests, renews the soil and basically resets the
clock. But in more recent times, the number of prescribed burns
has greatly decreased because of numerous reasons, such as
air-quality issues caused by smoke. When highways, schools and
hospitals are built near or even within forests, this limits
of these limitations, higher-than-normal buildups of undesirable
fuel loads, such as invasive undergrowth, brush and ground
litter, create conditions that, when combined with drought, low
humidity and wind, can result in dire consequences. A fire that
would normally flow through a forest doing relatively little
harm to the larger trees instead burns so hot that it
annihilates everything in its path.
burn too hot, they burn too fast, they burn uncontrollably,
especially in hilly and mountainous areas,” said Phinney, who
has been involved in land management and environmental
regulations for close to 20 years. “They say that fire runs up a
hill and walks down a hill. Fire basically runs up hills because
it super-heats the vegetation above where it’s burning. This can
cause incredible damage.” (source)
leads us to another factor.
live where the fires are.
mentioned previously, poor forest management has led to additional
fuel. Humans have carelessly caused fire after fire. And a third
of our growing population lives in areas that are much more prone
our population grows, more and more people – one-third
of homes, specifically – live in or near the forests
and natural areas, something called Wildland-Urban Interface.
According to a
report by the USDA, if you are in that interface, sooner or
later, you’re going to be at risk of a wildfire. “Homes located
anywhere in the WUI will eventually be exposed to wildfire,
regardless of vegetation type or potential for large fires.”
isn’t to say that humans all need to live in the city.
move into areas where fires have always been. But they don’t
prepare for them and, in many cases, aren’t even aware of how
dangerous they can be,” said Carolyn Dawson, an Extension
forestry agent based in the Upstate. “Then they’re shocked when
a wildfire comes through and destroys their homes. We need to
teach homeowners how to adapt to living with wildfire and
encourage neighbors to work together and take action now to
prevent losses in the future. There are things residents can do,
such as reducing wildland fuels and structure ignitability, to
protect their homes during a wildfire. Homes that don’t ignite
don’t burn.” (source)
very important to know if you live in an area with a high
potential for wildfire and if so, to prepare for the possibility.
can you do to protect your home?
are numerous things you can do to protect your home from a
wildfire if you live in an area prone to them. The US Forest
Service is bursting with information about the topic with their
FireWise program. Here
are some of their suggestions to prepare your home.
and the area 0-5’ from the furthest attached exterior point of
the home; defined as a non-combustible area. Science tells
us this is the most important zone to take immediate action on
as it is the most vulnerable to embers. START WITH THE HOUSE
ITSELF then move into the landscaping section of the Immediate
roofs and gutters of dead leaves, debris and pine needles that
could catch embers.
or repair any loose or missing shingles or roof tiles to
prevent ember penetration.
embers that could pass through vents in the eaves by
installing 1/8 inch metal mesh screening.
debris from exterior attic vents and install 1/8 inch metal
mesh screening to reduce embers.
or replace damaged or loose window screens and any broken
windows Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with
wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from
any flammable material away from wall exteriors – mulch,
flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles –
anything that can burn. Remove anything stored underneath
decks or porches.
from the furthest exterior point of the home.
Landscaping/hardscaping- employing careful landscaping or
creating breaks that can help influence and decrease fire
vegetation from under large stationary propane tanks.
fuel breaks with driveways, walkways/paths, patios, and decks.
lawns and native grasses mowed to a height of four inches.
ladder fuels (vegetation under trees) so a surface fire cannot
reach the crowns. Prune trees up to six to ten feet from
the ground; for shorter trees do not exceed 1/3 of the overall
trees to have a minimum of eighteen feet between crowns with
the distance increasing with the percentage of slope.
placement should be planned to ensure the mature canopy is no
closer than ten feet to the edge of the structure.
and shrubs in this zone should be limited to small clusters of
a few each to break up the continuity of the vegetation across
feet, out to 200 feet. Landscaping – the goal here is not to
eliminate fire but to interrupt fire’s path and keep flames
smaller and on the ground.
of heavy accumulations of ground litter/debris.
dead plant and tree material.
small conifers growing between mature trees.
vegetation adjacent to storage sheds or other outbuildings
within this area.
30 to 60 feet from the home should have at least 12 feet
between canopy tops.*
60 to 100 feet from the home should have at least 6 feet
between the canopy tops.*
thing you can do is proof your roof with a non-flammable material,
like asphalt shingles, metal, slate, or tile. That can be
incredibly expensive, so another option, although less effective,
is treating your existing roof with fire retardant, or install a
rooftop sprinkler system
steps can be the difference between your home burning during a
wildfire or being one of the homes left standing.
need to be ready to evacuate.
the best preparations, there are some cases in which you must
evacuate. Wildfires can spread rapidly, especially if they ignite
things like propane tanks. In 2015, the
small town of Middleburg, California was literally burned off
the map when this occurred.
videos in this article show the
horror of evacuating through a wildfire. We lived on the
edge of a wildfire more than once in California, but I’ll never
forget the first one. Here’s
that story if you want to know what it’s like. My
former home of El Dorado County, California is currently under
threat again, and all my dear friends and former neighbors are in
evacuation checklists and vehicle emergency kit checklists, you
can grab my new PDF, The
Prepper’s Book of Lists for $9.49. It contains more
than 40 lists to help you get prepped and ready for anything.
should have a kit in your vehicle at all times for a rapid escape:
goggles: This will protect your eyes and help keep
you from being blinded by smoke
masks: This doesn’t mean you will be able to
breathe if the fire sucks all the oxygen from your
environment, but it will help to filter out some of the smoke
so you aren’t disabled by a coughing fit. If you don’t have
tons of money to spend, even
an N95 mask will help. Worst case scenario, wrap a
bandana or t-shirt around your nose and mouth.
extinguisher: In a worst case scenario if your
vehicle catches on fire, you may be able to put it out if you
attack while the blaze is small.
gloves: Remember the guy who burned his hands
opening a gate? Welding gloves will offer some protection from
‘er up: Keep your vehicle full of fuel at all
times. Can you imagine running out of gas while fleeing for
if you live near a forest, you are at risk of a forest fire. It
can happen any place that there’s fuel. Be prepared and be safe.