Boulder, Colorado is, once again, preparing for the worst, as the second wildfire in as many months blazes across the nearby foothills, consuming hundreds of acres. Having spent numerous occasions in my fire-prone, second home, near Newberry, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, sympathy for the residents of Boulder is foremost in my thoughts. As they begin evacuations and make their feverish attempts to save what little they can, I’m taken back to the 2007 Sleeper Lake wildfire which burned nearly 18,000 acres in the Eastern U.P.
Despite your best intentions, nothing can prepare you for the absolutely chaotic turmoil which comes when facing a multi-story wall of immeasurable heat and flame. Though difficult to envision, if you’ve never lived through an event such as this, the image is unlike anything warranting description. The sky, darkened with smoke, seems to pull every last molecule of oxygen from your lungs. The feelings of fear, uncertainty and, ultimately, hopelessness begin to consume your thoughts, instantly. It is a very dark, unforgiving realm; one, in which, I pray no living soul should ever experience.
Dangerous and violent as they may be, wildfires can teach us valuable lessons in cautious preparation. Though not extensive, the following five tips are a valuable starting point, when preparing for the possibility of wildfire.
1.) Make sure all house, rental and property insurance are up-to-date. Keeping current protection can be priceless, when it comes to protecting your assets. Make sure your current policy protects against natural disaster (including wildfire), as many policies do not.
2.) Keep your property as free as possible from fire-enhancing kindling. Yard debris, overgrown grass, stacked firewood, fallen pine needles/cones, and dead undergrowth are like gasoline to a wildfire. All will light quickly and burn hot, contributing to the wildfire’s spread. Maintain a protective “buffer” around your home, keeping trees trimmed and all yard waste/kindling at least 30 feet away.
3.) Never burn outdoors without an eagle-eye toward Mother Nature. At a moment’s notice, a swift wind can turn your small campfire into a raging inferno, especially on a dry, hot day. Be wary of any incremental weather changes and, when in doubt, extinguish your fire before things take a turn for the worst.
4.) Teach your children well. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, “90% of wildfires are caused by humans…” Children need to understand the effects of carelessness, especially when it comes to fire. Simple lessons include: never leaving a fire unattended, using ashtrays for extinguishing matches, cigarettes and incense, and never leaving flammable materials near an open heat source.
5.) Always extinguish open flames properly. Be sure to use the right extinguishing agent of your fire. Make sure the fire is completely out, not smoldering and smoking. If unsure, it is always best to be overly cautious, as a fire can quickly get out of hand, when you’re least expecting it.
For the residents of Boulder, Colorado, a long, difficult journey lies ahead of them. They must be alert and wary, never losing sight of the possibility that another wildfire could rear its ugly head. Like the sunrise, natural disasters like wildfire are a certainty. By following these simple suggestions, you can increase your chances of, hopefully, never having to experience the devastating effects of wildfire, yourself.
– Sources –
“Windy, Dry Weather Causes Dramatic Increase in Wildfire Danger,” MDNR
Howard Pankratz and Kieran Nicholson, “Fire chars 144 acres west of Boulder; neighborhoods are evacuated,” Denver Post
“Sleeper Lakes Fire,” Wikipedia