Jul 152012

Drought and Wild Fires

The Maintenance Guru read this week that the largest disaster declaration ever issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture took effect on July 13th.  The map above was published at http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome and represents the counties affected.  Drought conditions lead to fires.  Most of our subscribers have been affected in one way or another from the fires that have spread across the country over the past 60 days.  We have no subscribers who have reported personal loss for the fires however, many of our subscribers have reported smelling and seeing smoke daily.
The Maintenance Guru visited his parents in Wyoming last month just as the Russell Camp Fire started.  The smoke could be seen for over 100 miles and because of the drought, it spread quickly.  The Maintenance Guru took his dad up the mountain to check on a mountain cabin that has been in their family for over 30 years.  The cabin was not in the fire line because the wind was blowing favorably at the time.  A 90 degree shift in the wind would most certainly put the family cabin in jeopardy.

Thanks to the quick response of FEMA, helicopter firefighting support, and over 300 firefighters working around the clock, the fire was eventually contained without loss of life.  It will be a long time before the fire is 100 percent extinguished as embers burn underground for months following most forest fires.  The first good snow will most likely extinguish the smoldering underbrush.
When enjoying our wonderful country, please take extra care to extinguish all fires.  Fire prevention is everyone’s responsibility.

Living Conditions at Fire Camp

As a fireman in the United States Air Force, the Maintenance Guru was exposed to fires of all kinds.  Although he was trained in fighting forest fires, he never had the opportunity to apply the lessons he learned in class to an actual forest fire.  Often, people never consider the conditions the living conditions of firefighters during the fire season.  The following pictures were taken in Wyoming with a cell phone as the Maintenance Guru passed the fire command post.  Three hundred firefighters, both men and women, called this camp home.  Most live in small tents pitched on flat ground with food and water provided to sustain life while spending weeks and sometimes months at camp away from home. This camp was located in a safe zone about 15 miles from the fire.  The pictures were taken as the camp was being established.  Fighting wild fires is exhaustingly difficult, dangerous beyond conception, and most firefighters are just thankful to have a tent and a bed roll waiting for them at the end of the day.  These men and women risk their lives daily fighting fires so life and property can be preserved. If you ever get a chance to thank a wild fire firefighter, please do without delay.

The following Fire Safety tips have been published by FEMA at:

Working Together for Home Fire Safety

More than 3,500 Americans die each year in fires and approximately 18,300 are injured. An overwhelming number of fires occur in the home. There are time-tested ways to prevent and survive a fire. It’s not a question of luck. It’s a matter of planning ahead.

Every Home Should Have at Least One Working Smoke Alarm

Buy a smoke alarm at any hardware or discount store. It’s inexpensive protection for you and your family. Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home. A working smoke alarm can double your chances of survival. Test it monthly, keep it free of dust and replace the battery at least once a year. Smoke alarms themselves should be replaced after ten years of service, or as recommended by the manufacturer.

Prevent Electrical Fires

Never overload circuits or extension cords. Do not place cords and wires under rugs, over nails or in high traffic areas. Immediately shut off and unplug appliances that sputter, spark or emit an unusual smell. Have them professionally repaired or replaced.

Use Appliances Wisely

When using appliances follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions. Overheating, unusual smells, shorts and sparks are all warning signs that appliances need to be shut off, then replaced or repaired. Unplug appliances when not in use. Use safety caps to cover all unused outlets, especially if there are small children in the home.

Alternate Heaters

  • Portable heaters need their space. Keep anything combustible at least three feet away.
  • Keep fire in the fireplace. Use fire screens and have your chimney cleaned annually. The creosote buildup can ignite a chimney fire that could easily spread.
  • Kerosene heaters should be used only where approved by authorities. Never use gasoline or camp-stove fuel. Refuel outside and only after the heater has cooled.

Affordable Home Fire Safety Sprinklers

When home fire sprinklers are used with working smoke alarms, your chances of surviving a fire are greatly increased. Sprinklers are affordable – they can increase property value and lower insurance rates.

Plan Your Escape

Practice an escape plan from every room in the house. Caution everyone to stay low to the floor when escaping from fire and never to open doors that are hot. Select a location where everyone can meet after escaping the house. Get out then call for help.

Caring for Children

Children under five are naturally curious about fire. Many play with matches and lighters. Fifty-two percent of all child fire deaths occur to those under age 5. Take the mystery out of fire play by teaching your children that fire is a tool, not a toy.

Caring for Older People

Every year over 1,000 senior citizens die in fires. Many of these fire deaths could have been prevented. Seniors are especially vulnerable because many live alone and can’t respond quickly.