Forest Fire


Places such as the western United States and parts of Australia are known for their wildfires. Year after year these locations are in the news and wildfires have been making headlines even more so in recent years. And yet, for those of us who live in such places, like California, where annual wildfires are just another season, it’s still relatively easy to get complacent because the fires usually only burn in the same area infrequently. Sometimes it may be a few decades before a wildfire poses a real threat to the same area.

In spite of the potential for complacency, it’s important to be aware of some basic wildfire safety points.

For example, do you know your community’s local evacuation plan? Be aware of at least two different ways out of your neighborhood. Know the evacuation route and plan a place where you will go. Make sure everyone in your family knows your meeting place ahead of time. Let your family and friends who do not live in your area know your meeting place.

Keep your car fueled and keep an emergency supply bag in your car. Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape.

The following is a message that has been repeated often in recent years, especially in California: If you are told to evacuate, do so immediately. For a number of us, it’s tempting to wait until the last minute to see if the fire might be contained. But if you delay, the roads may have heavy traffic placing you in a position of greater danger than if you had left earlier. Furthermore, blowing embers and debris from the fire may make it hard to see and they can become more of a hazard the longer you wait.

If your house is remote or even just on the edge of a neighborhood that leads into a fire hazard area, create a safety zone of up to 100 feet around your home. This could include removing dead brush, fallen trees, pine needles, dry leaves, or anything that you can remove that is burnable.

Some people love a wood fire in their home. And some of these folks buy stacks of wood to keep handy for their indoor and/or outdoor fireplace. Just be sure to keep woodpiles at least 30 feet from your home. It does mean some extra steps to bring wood into the house when needed, but that stack of wood is a real danger the closer it’s stored to your home.

Perhaps the easiest safety tip is to stay informed. Listen to the TV/radio broadcasts for current weather and emergency instructions. Sign up to receive local emergency alerts and warnings on both your home phone and cellphone.


For many of us, BBQ grills represent good times, good eating while making memories with family and friends. It can be easy to lose sight of the fact they also represent a fire hazard. The point here isn’t to toss out your grill, but just to be more safety-conscious. For example, the most basic point is to move your grill away from siding, decking, and other things that can catch fire.

When the grill is on, someone should stay with the grill the entire time you’re cooking.

It might be tempting to grab your kitchen utensils to cook on your grill, but you would be better served if you use long-handled barbecue tools when cooking on the grill.

Some of us have gas-burning grills, some use charcoal and some of use wood to cook outside. Use a metal screen over wood-burning fires to keep sparks from floating out.

Finally, be sure to turn off or put out fires before you leave the backyard. This relates to the above point, but it’s worth underscoring: Don’t leave a burning fire or grill unattended.

As a special note for those who use grills or fires while camping, but sure to build campfires at least 15 feet away from tent walls, shrubs or other things that burn. Having said that, many campgrounds have their own rules about grills and fires so be sure to become apprised of them wherever you camp.

The final point here is not about grills or campfires, but a word about fireworks. It’s important to call attention to fireworks since they are the cause of a whole lot of wildfires themselves: even in places where they are illegal. And often enough, fireworks may be part of celebrations that are used in conjunction with BBQs and campfires. At the risk of coming across as a party pooper, the best way to stay safe from fireworks is to not use them. There you go. I said it. Some folks will respect this last precaution and some won’t. But no matter what, for the protection of your family and community, be sure to follow as many of these fire safety points as pertain to your individual circumstances.

Wildfire Home Safety
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