Young Empowered Women

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Elise Thompson

May 24, 2021

Over the past few years in California, we have been hit with back to back disastrous fires that tear through the state, and now it is the time of year once again where flames can strike at any moment. As some have already sprung here in Sonoma County, such as the most recent burning near the train bridge right here in Healdsburg. As grasses begin to dry and temperatures start to rise, people need to start asking themselves, “Are we really prepared?” There are countless steps to take to make sure that you truly are prepared for a fire or evacuation situation, but there are some that should be the first priority, such as the following.

Over the past few years in California, we have been hit with back to back disastrous fires that tear through the state, and now it is the time of year once again where flames can strike at any moment. As some have already sprung here in Sonoma County, such as the most recent burning near the train bridge right here in Healdsburg. As grasses begin to dry and temperatures start to rise, people need to start asking themselves, “Are we really prepared?”
There are countless steps to take to make sure that you truly are prepared for a fire or evacuation situation, but there are some that should be the first priority, such as the following.
Know the area around where you live, and know ways to get out.
Being aware of your surroundings when fire season starts is very important. If you live in a suburb area with multiple houses around, it's not as likely for a wildfire to sprout up as opposed to more rural areas surrounded by dry grass. Also realize that generally, vineyards are naturally fire blocks, and a large portion of Sonoma County has them all over. If your house is surrounded by them, there is a good chance that the fire itself will not be able to reach it, but embers still pose a threat. It is also important to recognize ways to escape from any route possible, whether that be driving or as a last resort on foot. Having this planned far in advance and having everyone on the same page in case it does happen will take off a little bit of chaos during the incredibly stressful time.
Have a plan for how to get you animals or livestock out.
For some of us, our pets are family just as much as our siblings are. It’s important to have a plan on how to get the entire family out and to safety, not only the humans. There are different ways to transfer small animals like dogs, cats, rabbits, or even hamsters in crates, freely in cars, even in transportable boxes if needed. For large animals with hooves, it gets a little more complicated. Livestock trailers are the only way to go for most people, but the problem is, not every person has one. If you do own one and do not need it for your own animals, lending one to someone else who’s animals are in danger can be extremely helpful. Many people use community Facebook groups to reach out when looking for one, and many are happy to help out.
Keep supplies gathered in the case of an evacuation and know what you want to grab if it does occur.
When fires begin spreading, evacuations can be very quickly sprung on residents. In past years people were only given a couple minutes to evacuate before the fire was on top of them. As fire season begins, it’s important to start thinking about what you absolutely need in case you have to leave. Some necessities should include clothes that will last up to a week, personal hygiene products, medicaction, enough food and water for your family for a few days, important papers, and forms of ID. These are things that should be prepared during this season in the event that you need to get out quickly. For packing these items, crates, boxes, or duffle bags can do the job. It’s important to pack things that can be stored and fit into cars easily to make the packing process a little less stressful. If you have more time to think about evacuating, this is when things like antiques or keepsakes can also be packed, like photo albums or any special items.
When smoke is in the air, keep it outdoors.
With fires comes smoke, and with wildfires, it's always a lot of it. It always seems like no matter where the fire is in the state, it will end up leaving a grey haze all over for a few days or even weeks. Its important to lessen outside time as much as possible when the air is unhealthy, especially for those with compromised lungs or asthma. Even for those without a medical condition, breathing in smokey air for long amounts of time can be very harmful, so its important to stay indoors as much as you can. It is possible to get a portable air cleaner or filter to keep the air in your house clean when it gets too smokey outside.
Stay up to date with fires around you.
There are many ways to stay updated with fires in your area. One way that many people around Sonoma County have gotten these updates is with Nixle alerts, a system that texts you regularly with not only fire related information, but also many other things such as missing people or car crashes on busy highways. This system has been used before to alert people on evacuation zones, and during fires it has very regular updates on containment percentages and where the fire is moving. Another helpful system is Pulsepoint, which is a free downloadable app which, similarly to Nixle, sends you updates for fires as well as car crashes or any crime activity in the surrounding area near you. The app is very quickly updated with reports and has a visual map that makes it easy to know where everything is happening.
These are just a few things to keep in mind as fire season is being declared. Especially in California where there has been a long history of devastating wildfires, it's very important to always be prepared for these kinds of things, and learn from years past where fires spread extremely quickly.