SALT LAKE CITY — Two Thursday night fires in Utah County served as a reminder that fire season is upon the state. Wildfires may not be entirely preventable, but steps can be taken to help prevent fires and to prepare your home and family in case of evacuation.
What can you do to prevent wildfires?
- When burning debris, check with local officials to make sure it is open fire season, see if a permit is required, and notify city or county officials before you begin your burn. Have a shovel and water accessible and stay near your burn until it is out and cold.
- Build safe campfires:
- Clear the campfire site to bare soil and encircle the pit with rocks. Build campfires away from overhanging branches, steep slopes, dry grass and leaves.
- Keep a bucket of water and a shovel nearby. Don't leave the fire unattended.
- When putting out a campfire, drown the fire, stir it and drown it again.
- Be careful when using gas lanterns, barbeque grills, gas stoves and anything that can be a source of ignition for a wildfire.
- Use fireworks safely:
- Always read directions and have adult supervision.
- Never use fireworks near dry grass or other flammable materials.
- Have a bucket of water and a hose nearby.
- Never attempt to re-light or "fix" fireworks.
- Use only Utah State Fire Marshal approved fireworks.
- Be aware of firework restrictions in your area.
What to consider when buying a home
People will always build\homes that might, some day, be in the path of fire or a flood, but sometimes the risk isn't so obvious.
In North Salt Lake, a trickle of water is a sign of danger. There were many homes there 30 years ago but they were all torn down because the land wasn't stable.
"At the time the homes were built, under the technology available, it seemed OK. But as the years have gone by, it became very evident that this was a poor place to build a home," said Barry Edwards, North Salt Lake city manager.
There are resources you can check into when you are looking to buy a home to make sure the area is safe. Prospective home buyers should ask state agencies and neighbors in order to avoid disaster.
"The developers need to be responsible for developing the land. And the city needs to be responsible for allowing the land to be developed," said state geologist Adam McKean. "Utah overall is doing a good job. We are recognizing the geologic hazards.
How can you protect your home?
Creating defensible space around your home can help to save it if a wildfire gets too close. It also provides firefighters with a place from which to fight wildfires.
Doing the following will help create defensible space:
- Remove all flammable vegetation around all structures. Contact your local fire department to find out if there is a minimal amount of clearance required.
- Trim trees so branches are six feet from the ground and 10 feet from your chimney. Remove branches overhanging your roof.
- Call your utility company for help with trees near power lines. Never trim them yourself.
- Remove any dead trees. Cut weeds and dead grasses six inches or shorter.
- Always work early in the morning and make sure your power tools have spark arresters to prevent equipment-caused fires.
- Consider landscaping with fire-resistant plants.
- Clean up plant litter and water properly.
For more information on creating defensible space, visit utahfireinfo.gov.
How can you prepare your family?
- Build an emergency kit:
You may have to evacuate at a moment's notice. Depending on your location and the scope of the disaster, some supplies — such as food and water — may be readily available elsewhere. Be aware of your location and pack food, water and first aid supplies accordingly.
Disaster preparedness kit:
- Prescription medication, glasses, personal hygiene items and pet food can all be easily forgotten in the rush of the moment, but will be needed later.
- Cash and important documents should be kept in a reachable place.
- If possible, keep an extra phone charger in your kit, so you won't have to scramble when the time comes to evacuate.
- FEMA keeps a detailed list of recommended emergency kit supplies on the agency's website.
- A three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day) and food that won't spoil.
- One change of clothing and footwear per person and one blanket or sleeping bag per person.
- A first aid kit that includes your family's prescription medications.
- Emergency tools including a battery-powered radio, flashlight and plenty of extra batteries.
- An extra set of car keys and a credit card, cash or traveler's checks.
- Sanitation supplies.
- Special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members.
- An extra pair of eye-glasses.
- Keep important family documents in a waterproof container. Assemble a smaller version of your kit to keep in the trunk of your car.
Information from FEMA
- Make an emergency plan:
- Identify and maintain an adequate outside water source such as a small pond, cistern, well, swimming pool, or hydrant.
- Have a garden hose that is long enough to reach any area of the home and other structures on the property.
- Consider obtaining a portable gasoline powered pump in case electrical power is cut off.
- Make sure children know when they should call 911. They should also know addresses, phone numbers, and other emergency contact information.
- Try to identify two ways to get out of every room. The doorway may be blocked by fire or smoke, making a safe window escape necessary. The Red Cross has further information on making a detailed emergency escape plan.
- Teach children not to hide from firefighters.
- Identify a meeting place in case family members are separated.
- Make sure windows and screens are not stuck and that every family member knows how to remove screens and safety bars.
If advised to evacuate your home, do so immediately. Wildfires can spread quickly and you may not have time if you wait. FEMA advises wearing protective clothing, taking your disaster supplies kit, locking your home and telling someone else where you are going.
If fire officials tell you that you have time, turn off propane tanks, put combustible patio furniture inside, turn on a light in each room to increase the visibility of your home through smoke, and wet or remove shrubs within 15 feet of the home.
Contributing: Richard Piatt