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Lots to learn from the fire season

By Joe Dougherty

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, March 3 2013 10:36 p.m. MST

A melted sign near the home of James Patterson after the Quail Fire in Alpine Friday, July 6, 2012.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

Editor’s note: This is the sixth of a series of columns to help Utahns get ready for emergencies, disasters and the Great Utah ShakeOut 2013. Read the rest of the articles here.

The fires seemed endless in 2012. Thick smoke billowed above mountain tops. New reports of wildfires came into emergency and fire management offices daily, if not hourly. Incident management teams responded from around the nation to augment local efforts. Firefighters on the ground and in the air performed valiant work.

But even the most valiant work can’t save everything. Throughout the nation, fires destroyed homes (nearly 900 are destroyed each year) and millions of acres of natural habitat, critical infrastructure (such as power lines) and caused numerous deaths.

It’s easy to blame the dry conditions for how easily the fires began. Both we and Mother Nature are to blame for when fire start.

Today’s preparedness information, brought to you by Emergency Essentials, Deseret News and Be Ready Utah, will help you not only prevent fires, but help you make the right decisions if fire comes knocking at your door. It’s part of our preparedness efforts to help people get ready for disasters and the Great Utah ShakeOut, Utah’s largest earthquake drill, happening April 17 at 10:15 a.m.

Our first responsibility is to prevent fires from starting. There are a variety of ways to do this:

Take extreme care with campfires when conditions are dry. These conditions can exist during winter.

Obey orders from the state forester limiting certain outdoor activities, such as target shooting in dry areas outside city limits.

Don’t park your hot car over dry grasses.

Don’t use fireworks near wildland areas.

If you live in wildland areas, protect your home in the following ways:

Maintain a buffer between your home and wild areas by clearing brush and vegetation at least 75 feet around your home.

Don’t stack firewood next to your home or under a deck.

Clean your roof and gutters of pine needles and leaves.

More tips are available from the Colorado State Forest Service and UtahFireInfo.gov

If fire threatens your neighborhood, officials may ask you to evacuate.

Don’t wait. Gather your grab-and-go kits and leave the area. If you feel threatened, you don’t have to wait for an official evacuation order. Take pets with you.

Turn off your ventilation system and close vents, windows and your fireplace flue.

Text loved ones instead of calling. Texting uses less bandwidth than a phone call.

Tape a note to your door with names of all evacuees.

More tips from Arizona are here.

Joe Dougherty is a preparedness expert and the spokesman for the Utah Division of Emergency Management and Be Ready Utah. Send your preparedness tips to jdougherty@utah.gov. Daily preparedness tips available at twitter.com/bereadyutah.

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