Are you moving to a dry area where wildfires are a threat? Knowledge is power; here’s what you need to know about wildfires and wildfire preparation. First, let’s agree that they can happen anywhere, mainly because almost 84 percent of wildfires are humanmade. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says that most wildfires are in the Western U.S., in places like Southern California, Arizona, and Colorado. Recent years have also seen activity in southern Florida and the rest of the Gulf Coast, extending into Texas.
Weather Can Affect Wildfire Conditions
When it’s dry or windy, fire conditions increase. You’ll see a “fire risk” sign or indicator somewhere on your installation and probably in town as well. Add heat to the dryness and the wind, and you have the perfect conditions for a wildfire. Rising warm air can cause the fire to travel up a hill or mountain, instead of down it.
Wildfires Can Do a Lot of Damage
On average, over 1 million acres are burned each year by wildfires. (Large fires, which make up only about 2 to 3 percent of the fires, burn 95 percent of that acreage.) They can happen anywhere, but they are more common in forested areas and dry places.
More Than Just Water is Used to Extinguish Them
Water is important when putting out wildfires, but it’s not the only thing that can be used. You’ll often see helicopters or planes dumping something called slurry on a fire. This is a fire retardant made of water and fertilizer, used in hopes of slowing down the fire. It’s red so that firefighters know where it’s being dropped.
Wildfires Won’t Always be Put Out
Sometimes this concept is hard to accept, especially when a fire is bearing down on your neighborhood, but environmentally speaking, sometimes the fire needs to keep burning. There are positives to wildfires, including decreasing pests and getting rid of plants that are non-native. They also provide nutrients and ways for the sun to shine through and help regrowth.
So, now what you know, you can be prepared. Here are four easy steps to aid in your wildfire preparation:
- Make sure you (and your spouse) are signed up for any emergency alert systems. Some installations have them, and most local counties have them.
- Know how you will leave and where you will go.
- Have a go bag. Make sure everything you need to evacuate with is ready to go, but be prepared to leave without it.
- Make sure all of your important information is in a fireproof lockbox.
Military life will have you moving all over and learning lots about your new location. Go into this fire season fully prepared. You’ve got this!
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