If you are warned of an approaching wildfire, get your family together, then:
- Evacuate your pets and anyone with medical or physical limitations and young children immediately.
- Wear protective clothing.
- Remove any flammable materials like trash, lawn furniture and vehicles from around the house.
- Shut off any natural gas, propane or fuel oil supplies at the source. Check garden hoses and be ready to soak roofs, shrubs and trees with water within 15 feet of buildings.
- Close all windows and doors, and remove all flammable window coverings. Open fireplace damper and close the screen. Close outside attic, eaves, and basement vents. Close all shutters, blinds or heavy non-combustible window coverings to reduce radiant heat. Turn on outside lights and a light in every room for visibility in heavy smoke and distribute flashlights to all family members.
- Fill pools, hot tubs, garbage cans and any other large containers with water.
- Place a ladder against the house in clear view.
- Back your car into the driveway and close all windows.
- Disconnect automatic garage door openers so you can open the door without power, if necessary. Close the doors.
- Monitor news reports so you know the danger you’re facing. Prepare bug-out bags for evacuation and be sure to include your important papers and anything you “can’t live without”. Pack these items into the car.
- If you are told to evacuate, follow routes directed by local officials. Leave doors and windows closed but not locked. It may be necessary for firefighters to gain quick entry to fight fire in your home. The area will be patrolled by sheriff’s deputies or policemen. Fires can change directions quickly, be prepared to change your route if blocked.
- If you’re in a car, roll up the windows and close air vents. Drive slowly with headlights on. Watch for other vehicles and pedestrians. Do not drive through heavy smoke.
- If you have to stop, turn the engine off, but keep headlights on for visibility. Keep windows and air vents closed. Get on floor of auto and cover yourself with a blanket. Call 911.
- If you’re caught in the open, go to a clearing. If you’re close to a road, lie down in a ditch and cover yourself with anything that can protect you from the heat.
- If you evacuated, don’t go home after a wildfire until you’re told it’s safe to do so.
- Hopefully your home is unharmed. Be sure to check roofs and attics for hot spots and sparks and extinguish them immediately. Check every few hours for a day.
- Use caution when entering a building and avoid standing water. There may be an electrical charge.
- Check all utilities and consult a professional if damage has been done.
Billie Nicholson, Editor
Due to continued drought, the possibility of wildfire continues throughout the western states. When fires burn through areas, some homes are spared and others are not. Is there a way to make your property more fire resistant?
One way to help protect your home is to create a defensible space around it. What does this mean? It’s a buffer you create between buildings on your property and the trees, grass, shrubs or any wildland that surrounds it. This space will slow or stop the spread of wildfire and protect your home from catching fire. Defensible space will also provide protection for firefighters defending your property. To create a 100 foot space, divide it into two zones.
Zone one is 30 feet around your house or any other structure associated with it. In this area work on a major clean up removing all dead plants, grass and weeds from your lawn. Remove dead or dry leaves and pine needles from your yard, roof and rain gutters. Trim trees regularly to keep branches a minimum of 10 feet from other trees and from your house. Remove any dead branches that hang over your roof. Move any wood piles out of this perimeter. Remove any vegetation that could ignite and spread to decks or patio furniture.
Zone 2 includes the next 70 feet outside Zone 1 to make a total of a 100 feet perimeter. Cut or mow annual grass to a maximum of 4 inches. Create horizontal and vertical spacing between shrubs and trees. Remove all tree branches at least six feet from the ground. Lack of vertical space will allow fire to move from the ground to the brush and then to trees. Remove fallen leaves, needles, bark, cones and small branches that accumulate to a depth greater than 3 inches. When you landscape, consider planting fire-resistant plants and place them strategically to resist the spread of fire to your home. Have multiple garden hoses that are long enough to reach around property.
Homes located up to a mile from wildland fires can be destroyed by flying embers. Here are some things you can do to harden your home to make it more fire resistant.
- Roof – the most vulnerable part of your home. Wood or shingle roofs are very flammable. Use composition, metal or tile. Block any spaces between decking and covering to prevent embers from catching fire.
- Vents – create openings for flying embers. Cover them with 1/8” to 1/4” metal mesh. Don’t use fiberglass or plastic because they can melt and burn.
- Eaves and Soffits – should be protected with non-combustible materials.
- Windows – can break from wildfire heat before the house catches fire. This allows embers to get into and ignite fires inside. Install dual-paned windows with one pane of tempered glass to reduce the chance of breaking during a fire.
- Walls – Wooden products on the outside of houses as siding materials are combustible and not recommended for fire-prone areas. Use ignition resistant building materials like stucco or other approved materials. Extend them from the foundation to the roof.
- Decks – should be made of ignition resistant materials. Keep combustible materials removed from beneath your deck. Use the same materials for patio coverings also.
- Rain Gutters – should be screened or have gutter guards installed to prevent gutters from accumulating plant debris. Keep them clean of dried leaves and pine needles.
- Garage – Have a fire extinguisher and fire emergency tools available. Install weather stripping around and under door to block embers.
Billie Nicholson, Editor
We are often asked for suggestions about preparedness cooking on overcast days and would like to introduce you to the Cloudy Day Cube Stove, a simple, low-cost-solution. The Cloudy Day Cube Stove can cook your food with a wide variety of different fuels and weighs less than one pound.
Sun Ovens International has made a bulk purchase of the last of the American made Cube Stoves. They are now available at a reduced cost as a backup for your SUN OVEN®.
On days when rain or overcast weather hide the sun, the Cloudy Day Cube Stove is a great solution. The stove is designed for quick, convenient setup and use, and in addition to preparedness cooking, is ideal for camping or hiking. It has been engineered to maximize burning an assortment of different fuels including twigs sticks or wood, charcoal briquettes, Sterno cans, alcohol, solid fuel tablets or QuickStove Fuel Disks.
The Cloudy Day Cube Stove is made of durable aluminized steel. It can be used in 7 different positions to accommodate different needs, such as cooking fast or slow, or cooking in a large pot or small cup.
A Cloudy Day Cube Stove can be used in conjunction with your SUN OVEN®. A meal can be started on the Cube Stove and when it is half way through cooking, put into your SUN OVEN® to complete the cooking process as it would in a Wonder Box or retained heat cooker.
For a limited time, while supplies last, you can purchase a Cloudy Day Cube Stove Kit with two QuickStove Fuel Disks for less than $30.
Summer time is grilling time. Food cooked on the grill has a totally different taste from indoor cooking. With more people cooking on their grills than ever before, the HPBA (Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association) offers the following tips for grilling safety. Remember that any time you work with fire, there is a chance of getting burned, so take precautions.
- When using a new grill, be sure to read the owner’s manual. If you assembled the grill yourself, you know where it is.
- Grills are for outdoor use. If used inside, the carbon monoxide accumulating from combustion can be fatal.
- Grills should be placed well away from the home, deck railings or overhanging branches.
- Use long handled utensils to avoid burns and spatters.
- Take care with clothing. Don’t wear dangly fabric on sleeves or aprons that can catch fire.
- Keep the fire under control. If you must douse flames with a light spritz of water, remove the food from the grill first.
- Place a splatter mat beneath your grill to protect your patio or deck from dripping grease.
- Never leave a fire unattended.
- Keep children and pets away from the grilling area.
- Clean your grill before use by brushing off the charred grease AND THEN wipe the grill down with a wad of wet paper towels. This step is critical to remove any bristles that may fall out of the grill brush. Grill bristles unintentionally ingested will result in a visit to the Emergency Room. The Center for Disease Control reports several cases each year of patients admitted to hospitals with complaints ranging from bristles in the tongue or throat to penetrations of the small intestine as a result of eating food with bristles embedded.
Billie Nicholson, Editor
Keeping warm in cold weather without electricity may mean burning wood. This can be done in a fireplace directly or by using a wood burning stove. These are designed to safely burn wood fuel and provide heat for your shelter. They are connected to chimneys responsible for removing the by-products of combustion, including smoke, gases, tar fog, and water vapor, among other things. As the combustibles exit through the cooler chimney, they condense on the inside. This residue is know as creosote. It is very combustible and when ignited will burn at extremely high temperatures and may damage the chimney, spread through mortar cracks into the
wooden structure of your home, and even spew sparks igniting the roof. To avoid a home fire disaster, the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) offers the following safety tips:
- Get your chimney checked and cleaned annually to reduce the risk of fires and carbon monoxide poisonings due to creosote buildup or chimney obstructions.
- Keep overhanging tree branches at least 15 feet away from the top of chimney.
- Install a chimney cap to keep debris and animals out.
- Choose well seasoned wood, split for at least 6 months. Store it in a covered and raised location, away from your home foundation. Do not burn Christmas trees, cardboard, wrapping paper.
- Keep the area around your hearth clear. Keep furniture at least three feet away from the hearth.
- Install a metal mesh screen in front of fireplaces that do not have glass doors. This controls sparks.
- When building a fire, place the firewood or fire-logs in the back of the fireplace on a supporting grate. Leave air space when stacking multiple logs, so the fire can breathe. Use kindling or a commercial fire starter to ignite your fire. Never use flammable liquids. Build smaller, hotter fires that burn more completely and produce less smoke.
- The by-product of burning wood is ash. Softwoods make more ash than hardwoods. Leaving a one inch layer of ash in your stove will make it easier to build and maintain a fire. Hot coals nestling in the ash add more heat to the fuel and reflect heat back into the fire. Ash also protects the floor of your firebox. Do not remove hot ash from you firebox and put it into a paper bag or any other flammable container. Take all ash outside. At the end of heating season, ash should be removed to reduce moisture absorption, which rusts metal parts. Save the ash to add to your garden next spring.
- Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Place detectors in several locations throughout the house, putting one outside your bedroom door. Check these batteries twice a year. Over 200 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by problems in the venting of toxic gases, produced by heating systems. (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission). This number may be much higher because the symptoms of prolonged, low-level carbon monoxide poisoning mimic other common winter ailments (headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue and seasonal depression). Too much carbon monoxide in your blood will kill you. The protein, hemoglobin, in our blood will attach a carbon monoxide molecule and ignore an oxygen molecule. This attachment causes cell suffocation. Even low-level exposure can cause permanent brain and organ damage. Infants, those with blood or heart disorders, and the elderly are the most susceptible.
- Never leave a fire unattended. Learn how to keep your wood stove fire burning during the night.
- If you have a chimney fire, discontinue use of your chimney until it can be inspected and deemed safe to use.
Did you know that most fatal home fires occur at night when people are asleep? A person who is asleep or disoriented by toxic gases may not realize there is a fire, so smoke detectors can save your life.
A good detector or alarm should be loud, have batteries that are easily replaced, a malfunction signal, easy maintenance and cleaning, and a UL (Underwriter’s Laboratory), FM (Factory Mutual) or equivalent testing label.
Types of Smoke Detectors
There are two types of smoke alarms available: photoelectric and ionization. When smoke enters a photoelectric alarm, light from a pulsating light source is reflected off the smoke particles and into a light sensor, which triggers the alarm. When smoke enters an ionization alarm, ionized air molecules attach to the smoke particles and reduce the ionizing current, triggering the alarm.
Photoelectric alarms generally respond faster to smoldering smoke conditions, while ionization alarms respond faster to flaming fire conditions. Either way, both types provide adequate protection.
There is Safety in Numbers
The Utah Safety Council recommends the installation of at least one smoke detector outside every bedroom and on every level of your home. Others recommend:
• A detector on each level of the house as an absolute minimum.
• A smoke detector in each bedroom, in the hallway closest to each sleeping area and in heavily-occupied areas like the living room.
• When bedroom doors are left open, you should have at least one detector in the hallway outside the bedroom area.
Test, Clean and Maintain
Working smoke alarms are needed in every home and residence. Most models will make a chirping, popping or beeping sound when the battery is losing its charge. When this sound is heard, install a fresh battery, preferably an alkaline type. Test and maintain smoke alarms at least once a month, or follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Smoke alarms often fail because of missing, dead or disconnected batteries
“Safety experts recommend replacing smoke alarm batteries when clocks are changed for Daylight Savings Time”
October, 2011 Every Needful Thing Jason M. Carlton
For centuries humans have carried fire wherever they have gone. Whether you shelter in place or have to create a temporary shelter, you will need an energy source to provide some warmth, cook food and even serve as a signal. Before starting a fire, take a minute and decide where to put it. To benefit most, it should be near some sort of backdrop, perhaps that lean-to shelter you just built. It will absorb and reflect some of the heat. If you sit between the shelter and the fire, you will get the most benefit. Don’t build a fire in the shelter. Build a fire pit with stones or a sand berm to keep the fire contained.
The four things needed to start and maintain a fire are tinder, spark, fuel and oxygen. Those waterproof matches in your pack will provide a spark so all you’ll need is some dry tinder. Small, dry twigs (like in ‘been dead a long time’ dry), some dead dry plants parts including leaves, lint and dry, soiled tissues in your pocket, pine tree shavings or needles, tree fungi, and bark can all be used with your spark (water-proof matches or fire starter flints). As you are searching, locate a source of water or sand with which to douse the fire, if it gets out of hand. Gather enough dead, dry wood of varying sizes to keep the fire going. You will start with the smaller pieces and add the larger ones after the fire is established. Stack the items cross-ways to allow space for the fire to breathe (let in oxygen). Tip: Taking leftover sparklers from a patriotic celebration, cutting them into three inch strips, sealing them in mylar and adding them to your pack will give you a hot (4500º) fire starter. Remember to seal in a ziplock bag to keep the remainder together after opening the mylar. This flare will start even the wettest wood. One more thought, never leave your fire unattended. If you are leaving the area, put it out completely.
Fire can also be used as a signal for searchers, if you are lost. Add some wet, pitchy – like evergreens, or green wood to create smoke. The wood will not burn, it will smolder, creating smoke but not much warmth. This can be seen easily by searchers.
The following Checklist from “The Preppers-Playbook” lists some fire starting materials.
If you are making a fire outside of your non-electrified home and have all your appliances available, your SunOven® can be used on sunny days, reducing your needs for cooking fuel.
Along with the need for fire is the need for light. A fire will add light in one area, but not all around. Flashlights, battery operated lanterns and even decorative, outdoor, LED solar lights can be carried as you move about a dark area. Candles and oil lamps have been used historically and are even available in the 100 hour burning kind. You get to choose. Then practice using them, so you can operate them in the dark or near dark. Try going for a night using only alternative lighting. You will develop an appreciation for light quickly and will probably go to bed earlier than usual.