We’ve had quite a week out here in Southern California. The horizon from my front porch has been full of plumes of smoke from the wildfires – they still rage but things seem to be improving. That doesn’t mean the danger is past, of course – the Cocos fire isn’t even half contained and this is at least a warning to all of us SoCal folks that we’re in for a hell of a fire season. Time to trim all the brush back away from the house and review our state-supplied evacuation tips.
I often link out to wonderful tips on minimalism and frugality. I’ve had occasion to also be a part of the prepper community, although I’ve withdrawn from that because (no offense) those folks are very addicted to doom porn (your standard news and apocalyptic warnings from mainstream media). That stuff’s not good for your head if you’re trying to cultivate happiness. With all that background, you’d have thought I’d be ready, right? Nope. I slacked off. Here’s 3 lessons learned from the Southern California fires.
1. Re-orient Your Yard Work To Create Zones of Defensibility
I’ve cleaned out all the bushes close to the house because we’re in rattlesnake country. We’ve trimmed our trees back from the house because of the critters that keep trying to move into the attic. And houses with the same sentimentalities were entirely indefensible by fire-fighters, they burned to the ground.
As much as I like the shade of the trees and have been putting off working on our very extensive sprinkler system, I have a lot of work to do. My thoughts of defensibility have been about animals and people, not burning embers gusted over great distances by astounding winds.
- Create empty or fire-resistant zones around your property. This is useful for both fires and defense from people.
- Cut all trees far away from main structures.
- Maintain a working sprinkler system, even if you don’t want to keep a domesticated lawn. That way you can get everything wetted down if there’s a fire in the area.
2. Coordinate To Sort Out Your Most Important Items
We scrambled all over the house to get our most important stuff (legal paperwork, items of sentimental value including photos, basic emergency supplies) all into one place. The paperwork and the emergency supplies were straightforward, but the personal stuff was much more time-consuming. It turns out that everyone in my house has different ideas of what personal stuff is important – we all value different items differently. My wife didn’t know where I kept a hard drive backup of all our family pictures, and I didn’t know where the stuff from my son’s birth in the hospital was. Now we’re all on the same page, but if we’d been evacuated some of the stuff wouldn’t have made it into the travel bin.
- Get rid of all the crap you don’t need.
- Put all the stuff you need or want to keep together.
- Make sure everyone has input on the evacuation bins.
3. Go Beyond Two Escape Routes
We have escape routes planned. Two, just as recommended. And both were completely blocked out by the wildfires. When we busted out the map, we saw we’d have to head in another direction – one where we don’t know the terrain or what’s out there. So we’ll have to spend a bit of time exploring in that direction, clearly.
What if we’d needed to evacuate and were not together? With the possibility of phone service impacted and the only direction out being into places we’ve never been, it might’ve been very difficult to meet up. And, no matter how busy you might be or whatever you think is important, when you get evacuation orders the only thing on your mind is finding your family.
- Put together two Get Out Of Dodge Bags and keep one by your evacuation bins and one in your primary vehicle. Keep them updated. Gray Wolf Survival has a great checklist.
- Bust out a map and figure out where you’ll regroup as a family if an evacuation comes down and you’re not together. One meeting place in each direction.
- Know your routes in every direction. Take weekend trips and get to know the people and locations along the way. Pay special attention to emergency facilities.
Blessings To Our Fire Fighters and Emergency Personnel
It’s easy to sit around and be disgruntled about misuse of funds and government corruption. It’s also easy to be skeptical about police and military organizations. Until something like this comes our way, and then it becomes hard to not understand the power and hope of community.
Here in Southern California, we’re blessed by the thousands of fire fighters and other people involved in fighting the fires and keeping people and property safe. We’re also blessed by a ton of different governmental agencies, including the military over at Camp Pendleton, pitching in and working together. There’s been just one death that I know of. A lot of places in the world, it would have been a completely different story.
So, whether you live around here or not, take a moment and send a prayer of protection and gratitude to all those hardworking people. Especially for those who risk life and limb, and their families. Thank you, my friends, and I pray that you’ll be victorious over the flames soon, and back to your loved ones. God bless.