Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Planning for Texas Wildfires: Be Prepared

Like many others, we prepped an “emergency kit” in the aftermath of 9/11, which has sat unused all these years. San Antonio experiences very few natural disasters…no tornadoes or earthquakes, and even hurricanes have spent their fury before they arrive here. But we can’t avoid wildfires any more than anyone else in this worst-ever drought. This afternoon, a wildfire in Camp Bullis (15 miles away, pictured) forced evacuations in Fair Oaks Ranch. We could see the smoke for miles and occasionally caught a whiff of burning grass.

The recently opened Hardberger Park abuts our neighborhood on two sides. If some moron tosses a cigarette butt while walking along the hiking trails, the police will start ringing doorbells in our neighborhood first.

Bruce asked last night (as we watched the Bastrop photos in horror), “What would we take if they told us, ‘You have one hour to get out’?” Given my terror of fire, I want…no, need… to plan this out before that moment comes, because I’ll be a basketcase if it happens.

We made a “primary” list (“you have an hour to pack up”) and a secondary one (“you better start getting ready”). Due to privacy concerns, I won’t post the lists but the Texas AgriLife Extension Service has a comprehensive list for a “grab and go” box.

Some other suggestions:

  • Make your own personal list ahead of time. If the doorbell rings, you don’t want to flail about figuring out what to take and what to leave.

  • If you have pets, make sure to grab their food and medications. You’ll also need a crate if you plan to stay in a hotel.

  • Keep your gas tank at least half-full so you don’t waste time at the filling station.

  • Figure out where you’ll go ahead of time. Keep in mind that nearby hotels a) may not be far enough away and b) will fill more quickly.

  • Clear the outside of your home of combustible materials. If you have plywood, firewood, dead plants, or other flammables, throw them out.

The FEMA website also provides some excellent suggestions.

We’re all naturally inclined to think, “It can’t happen to me.” But with friends in the just-evacuated (and now safe) Fair Oaks Ranch and another friend with a fire-damaged home in Austin, I know that attitude is foolish. I plan to be prepared.

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