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Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
President Ronald Reagan is one of those few presidents that has successfully crossed political lines in his career, leaving a legacy in the hearts of Americans. The physical structure that holds his legacy and remains was in jeopardy of being annihilated by flame. That was until 550 goats stepped in the save the day. That’s right…goats.
Knowing that this season would be hot and windy, the Ronald Regan Presidential Library curators brought in 550 famished goats to work the property. It really paid off in spades as the wildfire firefighters, or Hot Shots, were able to contain the blazes that came within meters of the library gently searing the exterior walls.
President Reagan’s legacy was scorched but remained otherwise untouched due to brave work from the Hot Shots, great forethought from the museum’s staff, and the insatiable appetite of hundreds of goats.
Wildfires and California
I know what you’re saying, real cute – goats. Well Californians are looking for any help they can get right now and as feel-good as that story might be, what we are talking about is more than just important artifacts. Hundreds will lose their lives this year in California alone due to wildfires and I want to make sure that you are not one of them. So let’s spend a few minutes together here and walk through what to do in advance, during, and after a wildfire.
I should also not misguide you into thinking this is a California problem. California has plenty of problems and for those of you that live there, you are very aware which ones are theirs alone and which ones are shared. Wildfires have happened in 38 states and yes most of the fires typically occur in California, but this is really a problem from coast to coast so let’s get into it.
Preparing for a fire
When the call goes out to evacuate, it’s way too late to start thinking about what to get at that point. The good news is that if you have a bug-out plan ready for any other situation it will apply here as well. If you don’t, here are some thoughts about bugging out in a wildfire.
Where to go
Unlike when evacuating from a hurricane, leaving a wildfire endangered area can be quiet and almost eerie. The first thing you need to have is a place where you are headed. You should have made arrangements in advance so that you are not surprising anyone. Consider this an unplanned vacation to go see a relative. You’re going to be using vacation time and vacation fund dollars to get out of dodge, so you might as well make it a vacation. Spend time with an old friend or use up some of those hotel points somewhere with sand. What ever you decide, I would advise trying to take your mind off of what you are coming back to.
If you have an insurance policy that covers fire like most do, then you’re covered and if your like my wife you were probably thinking of redecorating anyway. I know I am making light of the situation, but as a person that has had my house burn down before I will tell you it is only stuff. The next few months will suck and you won’t be able to get a mental break from it when your back. Go get your head on right and find your release or support system. Above all, take the loved ones with you early.
So what else do you need in your bug out plan. Well, if your not the first out of town, plan on there being some standard convinces closed you would normally expect. For instance make sure you have plenty of fuel. In some of the remote parts of California, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico that I have ventured through, if the two fuel stations you were counting on are closed, you might be in a new kind of crisis – stranded. Stock up on fuel. I have a Ram 1500 and it gets about 18 MPG, so I will have 100Gal of fuel on hand at any time. Once I load that thing up with water gear and family, and if visibility is hampered, I’m going to be getting 12-15 per gallon.
My fuel plan is the same year round. I have those red 5 gallon fuel containers that I have labeled January, March, May, July, September, and November. When I fuel them up I get an octane that I can run in my small engines like a 93 and I add some fuel stabilizer to them like a Sta-Bil. Then each time the first of that month rolls around, I just our it in my truck and fill it up again. That way I have at least 30 gallons available in that manner. If you are really good, start adding in the even months and you can get 60 gallons of fuel on hand at any time. If you generator is gas, you are really going to love it because when the power company starts shutting down the lines, you are going to be catching up on your shows while your neighbors play solitaire by candlelight.
Not only will the gas stations be potentially closed, but restaurants are probably not going to be reliable either. You should have as least a 72 hour food kit on hand with the water and. the fuel to make it. I personally keep a go bucket with one week of food ready to go. That way I just grab the ahndle on my food bucket, and my go bag and i can be gone in minutes.
Speaking of water, you need at least one gallon per person per day for a minimum of three days (Plus water for pets). If you don’t have or can’t carry with you that much water, consider bringing water purification methods that travel well like tablets or pumps so that you can be sure, especially when returning, that you are consuming potable water.
The amount of cash you can carry is based on your lifestyle, but remember that with the number of people traveling there will become infrastructure issues with internet connectivity and power consumption. Be ready for restaurants and store credit card machines to be offline. I recommend denominations of $20 and smaller only.
When it is time to evacuate, you may need to have a battery-powered radio with extra batteries that can access the NOAA weather station. This will help you with road closures and how the fire is moving.
If you are heading to a government shelter, some of the trappings of home will help you with the adjustments. Lack of sleep will exacerbate the stress levels leading to unhealthy responses. Try to ensure that you can get a good night’s sleep at your safe place.
Seasonally appropriate clothing should be packed for a duration of 3 days. Bring long-sleeved shirts and pants along with closed-toe shoes. When arriving back after the fire, there can be debris and you need to make sure you protect your body and feet.
First Aid Kit
You should assume that many medical first responders are also firefighters. That means that if you need to call them you are pulling multiple people out of the fight. Ensure that you are ready to care for yourself with proper medical supplies. Ensure medicines are with you, This is not the time to need to get into a hospital because your needed medications are back at the house.
Map & Compass
Having a map and compass of the area will help you when cell signals are down and your primary and secondary routes are compromised. Practice reading them in advance.
This ventilator will allow for particulate filtering and keep your lungs clean. I have one of these that I use in my workshop at home, but they are also good for high pollen grass mowing and other practical uses. Each person in. your party should have one.
This mostly pertains to babies and the elderly, but diapers, special food and formula, and any supplies that are specific to their age like walkers or a wheelchair
Hygiene is not only important in the way of preventing illness, but also as a means for normality and sense of comfort. Pack a toothbrush, toothpaste, washcloth, hand soap, sanitizer, shaving needs, and haircare items.
Flashlight and Batteries
We hope you make it clear of the fires, but in some cases, the smoke that is can blacken out the night. It’s also possible that you will not find hotel space along your route to your destination or shelter and may need to weather a night in your car. Be prepared to not rely on the car battery power for any stays without the engine on as you will drain the battery. Don’t sleep with the engine running as you will run out of fuel and can have other issues that are not ventilating correctly. Pack a good flashlight or lantern. Preferably one that has a crank or solar recharger. Ensure you have extra batteries as well.
Keep in touch with loved ones, post that you ave okay on social media, and access maps, and weather updates. In addition to the phone itself, have the charging cord, any adapters you may need to plug it into a wall socket and any backup batteries or power cells.
Toys, books, non-electronic games
There is going to be some downtime and whether you have kids or not, even a deck of cards can go a long way.
Pet care items
During Katrina evacuation, ASPCA estimated that over 100,000 pets were left behind and nearly 70,000 of those perished. The remaining created issues for first responders who were encountering both animals that now needed saving deterring them from helping people in need and creating safety issues for them getting to the people in need. Be prepared to take your animal with you.
- Water – 1 gallon per day per animal.
- Food – 3-10 days worth of food. I always just keep one extra bag on hand which is good for shelter in place or loading up in the truck.
- Collar and Leash – Laws vary by county and private facilities. You are responsible for controlling your animal along the way. If your dog is like mine, on my property he doesn’t always wear a collar, so don’t forget that and a leash.
- proper identification/immunization records – If your dog has been licensed and treated, bring that paperwork with you.
- Carrier or cage – There are pet-friendly hotels and evacuation shelters. Most will require your pet to be kenneled and to have the appropriate paperwork for vaccinations. Most shelters will not allow pets, but you will get turned away from “pet-friendly” shelters if you don’t have those items.
Documents to bring with you:
Store important documents in a fire and waterproof container. This is ideally a portable safe.
- Insurance papers
- Medical records
- Bank account numbers
- Social Security cards/Passports
- Deeds or mortgages
- Birth and marriage certificates
- Stocks and bonds
- Recent tax returns
Preparing for the Fire
Here are a few things that you should do if time allows to prepare for the fires.
- Clear the vegetation from around your home for 30 ft.
- Mow the lawn to cut down on fixed vegetation
- Lean or cover your gutters so that easy to burn debris will not catch an ember on your home.
- Prepare sprinklers around the house and get out any hoses that you may have that can be used to fight spot fires.
- Close all the doors and windows of the house so that sparks cannot get in.
- Move all flammable furniture to the center of the rooms to prevent heat from combusting them.
- Put all valuable items that will not be ruined by water in a. pool or pond.
Time To Go
So when they say it’s time to go you need to head out fast. Usually, there is ample notification of hours to get out of the way of the fire, but you should also have a. 5-minute plan and a 2-minute plan ready to go. Before you head out here are some things that you should think about doing.
- Turn on all the hoses that you staged including sprinklers on your house.
- Turn on all lights for the safety of the firefighters that may need to enter your smoke-filled house.
- Leave doors unlocked as you exit and unhook your garage door if it is automatic. One of the best ways that firefighters will save your house will be to get holes in the roof opened up to let it burn out and get water directly on it.
- Put a ladder up to the roof against the front of your home. This will signal to the firefighters that you have left and give hem and extra tool to use to reach your roof.
- Enact the family emergency communication plan and check in with your out of town contact.
Sheltering In Place
So I am assuming you were ready to go, got your stuff set up as fires approached, tried your primary route of evacuation when authorities said to go, tried your secondary route, and in the end were trapped. Why in the hell else would you be reading this? Who in their right mind is going to risk death to stay back and protect stuff that in insured?
Well, the least I can do is try to. Keep you alive at this point.
Call your emergency contact and let them know tha tyou are going to shelter in place and to call the authorities if they don’t hear from you in 30-60 minutes.
Turn off the gas to your house at the main. Try not to blow yourself up. Stay on the leeward side of the house. The windward portion of the house will take on the most damage as it catches fire first. board up. any windows and heat break if you can.
Remember that the fire will likely be 1500 degrees Fahrenheit and the front will engulf the house for about 15 minutes. Move all furniture away from the walls at most of it is combustible. It’s basically made of gasoline. Change into non-polymer clothes like cotton or wool that will not melt in the heat. If you can moisten the room do so as it will make it harder to burn.
As soon as the front is passed, head outside and see if you can put out any spot fires with any hose that is left. If helps neighbors if you can. Reach out to your emergency contact to let them know you made it.