Drought Adds to Dangerous Wildfire Season Ahead, Follow these Safety Steps

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Experts predict 2021’s wildfire season could be extremely dangerous due to the severe drought occurring over much of the western half of the country following back-to-back years of record-breaking wildfire seasons. The American Red Cross is urging everyone in wildfire prone areas to get ready now and offers steps to follow during the drought.

These fires can happen anywhere in the country. Wildfires occur all year round, but most fires happen between June and August. In 2020, western states experienced numerous major wildfires which claimed the lives of as many as 37 people, consumed more than 10 million acres, and caused more than $19 billion in damages.

SEVERE DROUGHT The western states, especially from California through the Southwest, are facing a severe drought situation. Not much precipitation is expected over the next month so the drought will likely continue.

The National Interagency Fire Center reports currently 23 large fires have burned 178,162 acres in 10 states. New large fires were reported in Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana and Nevada. The country is at National Preparedness Level 3 due to an increase in significant fire activity across the Southwest, Great Basin, Rocky Mountain and Alaska. As of June 15, there have already been more than 27,700 wildfires, scorching more than 981,000 acres.

WILDFIRE SAFETY

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO NOW Purchase a battery-powered radio to receive information from local authorities during a power outage.

Find an outdoor water source such as a pond, well, even a swimming pool, and have a hose that can reach any area of your property. Create a fire-resistant zone free of leaves, debris or flammable materials for at least 30 feet out from your home. Regularly clean roofs and gutters. Make sure driveway entrances and your house number are clearly marked so fire vehicles can get to your home. Designate a room that can be closed off from outside air. Close all doors and windows. Set up a portable air cleaner to keep indoor pollution levels low when smoky conditions exist. Use fire-resistant materials to build, renovate or make repairs. Post emergency phone numbers by every phone in your house and make sure everyone has those numbers in their cell phones. Download the free Red Cross app “emergency” to help keep you and your loved ones safe with real-time alerts, open Red Cross shelter locations and safety advice on wildfires and other emergencies.

BE PREPARED TO EVACUATE AT A MOMENT’S NOTICE and obey all evacuation orders from officials. Follow these steps (if time allows):

Shut all windows and doors. Remove flammable window shades, curtains and close metal shutters. Move flammable furniture to the center of the room, away from windows and doors. Shut off gas at the meter; turn off pilot lights. Shut off the air conditioning. Gather up flammable items from the exterior of the house and bring them inside (patio furniture, toys, trash cans). Turn off propane tanks. Move propane BBQ appliances away from structures. Don’t leave sprinklers on or water running, they can affect critical water pressure. Back your loaded car into the driveway and keep all doors and windows closed. Ensure your emergency supplies kit is in your vehicle. Locate your pets and take them with you.

DROUGHT CONSERVATION STEPS

Indoors

Never pour water down the drain when there may be another use for it. Repair dripping faucets by replacing washers. Check all plumbing for leaks and have any leaks repaired by a plumber. Insulate your water pipes to reduce heat loss and prevent them from breaking. Install a water-softening system if the minerals in the water could damage your pipes. Choose energy and water efficient appliances. Purchase a low-volume toilet. Replace your showerhead with an ultra-low-flow version.

Outdoors

Check your well pump periodically. Plant native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs and trees. Install water efficient irrigation devices such as soaker hoses. Use mulch to retain moisture in the soil. Avoid recreational water toys that require a constant stream of water. Avoid installing ornamental water features unless they use re-circulated water. Position sprinklers so water lands on the lawn and shrubs and not on paved areas. Raise the lawn mower blade to at least 3 inches or to its highest level. Plant drought-resistant lawn seed. Reduce or eliminate lawn areas that are not used frequently. Install a new water-saving pool filter and cover pools and spas to reduce evaporation of water.

RED CROSS WILL PROVIDE SAFE SHELTER The Red Cross will continue to make sure people have a safe place to stay, food to eat and resources to help them recover after a disaster, a critical part of the Red Cross mission, but how we support sheltering efforts may be different in each community, depending on local emergency plans and the scale of the disaster. In most cases this year, we will open group shelters. However, in some communities, hotels may still be more appropriate if the risk of COVID-19 is particularly high. The Red Cross will also keep many of the safety precautions implemented in 2020. These include masks, health screenings, enhanced cleaning procedures and encouraging social distancing.