Fires can break out at any time, forcing families to make quick decisions about how to best evacuate their homes and save their belongings from utter destruction. If you live in an area where wildfires are common, it is expected that certain major precautions have already been made to reduce the damage that these fire may cause. Even if fire safety tactics have not been set-up ahead of time, however, there are still a number of things you can do before leaving your home when it is being threatened by wildfires.
There are a several fire damage preparation and evacuation tasks you should conduct if a wildfire is threatening to damage your home.
Call the Fire Department
The first step is often the most overlooked - call the fire department. If you notice a wildfire anywhere near your home, even if it seems far in the distance, don't assume someone else has contacted the authorities. When it comes to wildfire outbreaks, time is of the essence.
Evacuation is critical. All children, elderly residents and family members with medical conditions should be evacuated first. Pets should be put in carriers and evacuated too. Anyone that is not needed to prepare the home for the fire should leave immediately. Do not spend time saving personnel belongings beyond general identification documents. Document recovery is possible after a fire; recovering lives may not be.
Those family members that may stay behind to secure the home should put on protective clothing and then get to work quickly. First, the perimeter of the home should be cleaned up. Any item that will easily burn should be moved from around the house to an area away from the home but that will not inhibit rescue workers or firemen from reaching the lot. These include wood piles, tarps, lawn furniture, barbeques and grills, yard debris, and any other flammable material. Inside the home, move important documents like family archives, blueprints, photos and other important papers to one area, preferably in a basement, and cover it with a non-flammable tarp. This will increase the likelihood of protecting your documents from fire damage as well as potential water damage caused by firefighters.
Secure Windows and Doors
Next homeowners should make sure all openings are properly closed, including vents, windows, and doors. Non-combustible window coverings should be closed to reduce radiant heat.
Combustible window coverings should be removed. Interior doors should also be closed to prevent drafts that could fuel flames. Firefighters may need to enter your home quickly, so close but do not lock your doors.
Secure Fuel Sources
After closing all the doors and windows, turn off all fuel sources - natural gas, propane and fuel oil supplies - are shut of.
Create Water Barriers
Turn on all hoses and outside water sources and fill any pools, hot tubs, garbage cans, and recycling bins to create a water barrier.
The most important thing to remember if a fire is threatening your home is to stay calm and under stand that fire restoration is possible. Evacuating your family is the most important step. Taking some quick precautionary steps to reduce the threat of wildfire to your home may just help save some of your possessions and reduce the fire damage to your home.
~Ben Anton, 2008
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