What? It’s Fire Season?
Silver City Neighborhood Alliance
Lt. Aric Ray of the Silver City Fire Department spoke at last week’s Planning & Zoning Committee meeting and identified these neighborhoods as being at high risk of wildfire:
Cottage San Pinos Altos/Hwy 15
Dos Griegos Rosedale
Indian Hills Silver Acres
Little Walnut Sunrise Estates
Lt. Ray showed a media video of scenes taken during the Quail Ridge Fire from March of 2011, along with audio of calls to 911 and of radio communications among the firefighters. We have some of the finest firefighters around, with great inter-operability among organizations, but we never want to go through that again.
Sadly, only a few members of the public were in attendance at the meeting. We could have learned so much. Yes, the Southwest’s fire season has already started – there was a two-acre fire in the Mimbres last month, there’s new fire in Southern California, and the ongoing fire of Estes Park, Colorado.
We are in a serious drought. In fact, 2012 was the 2nd driest year on record for New Mexico, per our state climatologist. Don’t let our recent snow fool you; we need several weeks of continuous rain to ‘catch up.’
The volume of 1000-hour fuels in the urban/wildland interface around Silver City (three to eight inch trees with insufficient moisture to keep them from burning), is pretty, darned voluminous. And that’s not even considering the high terpenes of fuels like juniper and pinon.
Our terrain is difficult with many arroyos and hills. Our winds are more frequent and more sustained. And, while our prevailing winds come out of the west, local vortices exist in every neighborhood.
If firefighters are faced with dry fuels, in wind, in difficult terrain, it's next to impossible to predict fire behavior that could be racing up hill at 40 miles per hour. So, fire-fighters will be unable to save your house because they cannot risk their lives to save property that’s not Fire Wise (www.firewise.org).
Lt. Ray spoke of neighbors’ needs to dispose of, trash, brush & tree debris, to clean and mow to at least 30 feet from your home, and to move propane tanks and woodpiles farther away. If your home is up hill from prevailing winds, make that distance 50 feet.
We need volunteers with trucks to take the trash, brush & tree debris to the dump. We need Grant County support to take it at no charge. And please, don’t throw trash and brush in our arroyos – it helps them burn hotter, longer, and send spot fires higher to distant places, like your roof. And then one day, if there is a flood, your debris will back up and break someone’s retaining wall.
Every family needs an emergency evacuation plan that includes where to meet if a neighborhood, a school, or a business is evacuated. We need to keep a small can of auto gas in a safe place to fill the car’s tank so we aren’t caught unaware. We need to think and know which streets or roads we may need to use to get to safety.
We need to turn off the gas to the house before we evacuate and take steps to protect valuables we may have to leave behind. And, we need “Grab N Go" bags for each member of the family. There’s a list of things to consider at the end of this article.
Most of us in Silver City and in the urban/wildland interface around it live in terrain that makes it difficult to fight fire. It's dry, and the turpins in piñon, juniper and ponderosa are enormous. Our spring days are particularly windy. And, we're completely unaware.
Supplies for a Disaster Evacuation Kit
Food and water supplies:
• 3 gallons of water for each person using the kit
• 6,000 calories of food per person using the kit (3 days' worth)
• Utensils that may be recycled or reused, paper plates and bowls (washing wastes water)
• manual can opener
• sharp knife
• small cutting board
• sugar and spices
• aluminum foil and plastic wrap
• resealable plastic bags
Light and communication:
• portable radio or television and extra batteries
• emergency radios that don't require batteries are better
• flashlights with extra batteries
• whistles for each person
• hand-held, two-way radios and extra batteries or chargers
Health and hygiene:
• first aid kit including nonprescription medications
• copies of prescriptions
• dust masks
• toothpaste and toothbrushes
• comb and brush
• lip balm
• contact lenses and glasses
• toilet paper
• hand sanitizer
• liquid detergent
• feminine supplies
• plastic garbage bags with ties for personal sanitation use
• medium-sized plastic bucket with tight lid
• household chlorine bleach
Shelter and clothing:
• complete change of clothing for each person
• sturdy shoes or boots, no open toes or heels
• rain gear, hats and gloves
• thermal underwear
• sleeping bag for each person Miscellaneous items and safety gear:
• fire extinguisher
• utility knife
• games and books to pass the time
• deck of cards
• travel games (Scrabble, chess, checkers, Monopoly)
• crayons and coloring books
• Sudoku/crossword puzzles
• pens and paper
• map with emergency shelters marked and their telephone numbers
• extra keys
• copies of driver's licenses, work identification and passports
• copies of deeds and insurance information
• copies of vehicle registration and insurance
• cash and 2 rolls of quarters for vending machines
• waterproof matches or lighter
• resealable plastic bags of various sizes for all types of non-food uses
Special needs for ill, nursing mothers, elderly and infants:
• walkers or wheelchairs
• hearing aid batteries (to keep them fresh, use the batteries in the kit and put new ones in whenever you need to change)
• special foods
• denture supplies
• spare oxygen
• diapers and wipes
• baby bottles with extra nipples and inserts (if necessary)
• breast pump
• powdered formula
What to grab when you go:
• prescription medications including inhalers
• special medical equipment (oxygen tanks, nebulizers)
• cell phones and chargers
• credit cards
• favorite dolls and stuffed animals for small children