Wildfire season: What you need to know to stay safe
The Alaska Division of Forestry encourages everyone who lives in wildfire country to know the steps to keep their family and property safe.
Part of that is knowing the three phases of evacuation in the event a fire comes near your home.
• Level 1 - Ready
• Level 2 - Set
• Level 3 - Go
Level 1 - Ready
With record-breaking heat and wildfires causing people to prepare to leave their homes, the Alaska Division of Forestry wants everyone to know the different phases of evacuation.
Phil Blydenburgh, acting fire management officer, says phase one starts before anything actually happens.
"Getting ready means that stuff that we could do all season long," said Blydenburgh. "We don't wait until there's an emergency. We know if we do have to evacuate or move, what it is we're going to take. Are we taking the car? Are we taking the pets? That situational awareness to where if we did have an emergency, being ready [is that] I know where everything is and we know what we're going to take us as we leave."
Level 2 - Set
If a wildfire is near your neighborhood, fire officials may activate phase two.
"Our ready package is now moved the door. We know where our car keys are. We know what we're gonna take if we need to leave," Blydenburgh said. "We know where we're going and we have a contacts and all that."
Level 3 - Go
When the fire gets closer or things look like they could get dangerous very quickly, emergency management officials will initiate phase three — issuing an immediate evacuation of the area.
"OK, we want to actually evacuate this area," said Blydenburgh, saying the threat of a wildfire approaching like the Shovel Creek Fire near Fairbanks or the Montana Creek wildfire near Talkeetna, go means it's time to leave.
The decisions about when and how to evacuate can change with each fire.
Blydenburgh said those choices would be based on what type of fuel is the fire burning in, if the fuel types continuous, the behavior of the fire and how fast the fire moving.
"A lot of those factors are based on the behavior or feel," he said.
How to prepare for an evacuation
The American Red Cross has a list of things should be included in an emergency preparedness kit.
At a minimum, an emergency kit should have these basic supplies:
• Water - one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
• Food - non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
• Battery-powered or hand-crank radio - NOAA Weather Radio, if possible
• Extra batteries - similar item available in the Red Cross Store
• Deluxe family first aid kit
• Medications - 7-day supply and medical items
• Multi-purpose tool
• Sanitation and personal hygiene items
• Copies of personal documents - medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies
• Cell phone with chargers - similar item available in the Red Cross Store
• Family and emergency contact information
• Extra cash
• Emergency blanket
• Map(s) of the area
Other items you might include:
• Games and activities for children
• Pet supplies - collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl
• Two-way radios
• Extra set of car keys and house keys
• Manual can opener
How to prepare property for a wildfire
If you live near a natural area, also known as the Wildland Urban Interface, you need to have defensive space around your home.
The Red Cross also has a list of steps to protect your home:
• Identify and maintain an adequate water source outside your home, such as a small pond, cistern, well or swimming pool
• Set aside household items that you can use as fire tools before emergency responders arrive: a rake, ax, hand saw or chain saw, bucket and shovel
• Regularly clean roofs and gutters
• Keep a garden hose that is long enough to reach all areas of your home and other structures on the property
• Install freeze-proof exterior water outlets on at least two sides of your home and near other structures on the property
• Make sure driveway entrances and your house number or address are clearly marked so fire vehicles can get to your home
• Install additional outlets at least 50 feet from your home. Firefighters may be able to use them
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