WARNING: This may sound like a broken record, but I can’t say it enough:
Pay close attention to what’s going on around you here in the mountains of North Georgia right now. If you smell smoke, any smoke, check it out, call it in, and get away from it. We are now in an extremely dangerous weather situation in our area that can lead to events that can change our lives and our community forever. This is the dangerous wildfire conditions that we have been warning you about for years that can quickly create the perfect wildfire storm fueled by the extremely dry weather combined with heavy leaf fall and low humidity with constant winds. This is a recipe for disaster and all it takes to start the chain of events is one small spark.
Many wildfires are started by such simple things as the safety chains on a trailer dragging on the road, a mower hitting a rock, a power tool creating sparks, or many other seemingly harmless events that in normal weather would not be an issue. Now more than ever we need to follow the Ready-Set-Go evacuation guidelines that our Firewise team promotes:
Ready – prepare your home and property to resist fire, be Firewise.
Set – be aware of changing conditions and be prepared to leave your home.
Go – as soon as you suspect something is not right.
Go, do not hesitate, get out of harm’s (and firetrucks) way and let the emergency folks get in and do their job to protect your life and property. The last thing you want to do is get caught in a traffic jam with flames and smoke blowing over your car which prevents the emergency trucks getting in and you can’t get out…not a good situation to be caught in.
Water has for most of recorded history been the method of putting out fires and in many of the areas that we live in getting enough water to fight a fire is difficult. Many of our fire engines can pump 1,000 gallons per minute and only carry 1,500 gallons so the water can be gone in 1.5 minutes. In cities and towns across the United States, fire departments have had years of experience creating adequate water supplies for fighting structural fires. Networks of fire hydrants and water mains provide quick access to a plentiful supply of municipal water. But what happens if you remove the hydrants and water mains, spread the homes and businesses far apart, add county roads and terrain, and dot the land with other types of structures? This is a more realistic picture of rural areas and the wildland-urban interface, and it is in these areas that water supply and distribution present an urgent challenge.
This is all-the-more reason to prepare our property before a fire approaches so it can resist a fire. If you are in a situation where a wildfire is approaching and you decide (or must) shelter-in-place and ride out the storm, there are steps that you can take to prepare to survive the fire.
1. Call for Help – Use a cell phone if your electrical power has been interrupted.
2. Close all entrances, windows and other openings – This includes doors, garage doors, windows, vents and any other entrances to your residence or garage. Close shutters, heavy drapes, Venetian blinds or other window coverings. This action is recommended to prevent sparks from blowing inside your house and igniting there.
3. Have tools & water accessible – Have a shovel, rake and long water hose accessible. Fill buckets and other bulk containers with water.
4. Dress to protect yourself – Wear cotton/woolen clothing including long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves and a handkerchief to protect your face.
5. Wet down the roof – If your roof is combustible, wet it down with a hose. Place the ladder you use for this task on the side of the roof opposite the fire.
6. Turn off residential fuel – If you use natural gas or propane, turn it off at the tank or the meter.
7. Prepare automobiles – Back as many vehicles as possible into the garage. Then close the garage door. In the event you evacuate, close the garage door behind you as you leave. If you do not have a garage or if the garage is full, park vehicles so they are heading in the direction of the evacuation route.
8. Evacuate the family – If evacuation becomes necessary, take your family and pets to a safe location as soon and as quickly as possible. You can’t save your home with the tools most homeowners have so get out of the way and let the professionals get in and do their job without having to deal with you. Keep your eyes, nose and ears open for changing conditions and if you suspect somethings not right, call 911 and leave the area.
For more information on the wildfire situation, contact the local Georgia Forestry Commission office, the US Forest Service or Frank Riley, Executive Director, Chestatee/Chattahoochee RC&D Council at firstname.lastname@example.org.