"These fires are happening so quickly and burning so rapidly, some people have had limited time to escape," said Battalion Chief Amy Head from Cal Fire during a wildfire training session.
She could have been referring to last year's Camp Fire, which spread quickly on the morning of November 8, fueled by strong winds and extremely dry brush and trees. Within an hour it was upon the town of Paradise, killing 85 people and destroying nearly 19,000 buildings.
Roll back the calendar to a year earlier and a similar scenario took place during the Tubbs fire that ravaged Sonoma and Napa counties and gave residents little time to escape. 22 people were killed in the firestorm.
"It is in recent years that we have seen an increase of the amount of fires where people aren't able to escape, so we are trying to spread the message on other things you can do in case you are trapped in that situation," Head said.
Do you know what to do if you are surrounded by a wildfire? Here are some tips.
1. Evacuate early. Treat red flag warnings as seriously as hurricane or tornado warnings. If the authorities recommend evacuating an area because of a fire danger, don't take chances and leave early.
2. If a fire blocks your escape route, look for places where you can stay away from the flames. Large green areas like a baseball field, a football field, a golf course or a large parking lot can keep you away from the flames. Drive your vehicle onto the middle of the field or lot and stay in your vehicle. "It will be chaotic. Try to remain as calm as possible if you can and let the fire go by," suggests Head.
3. If you are unable to leave your home, close all your windows and doors and place a wet towel in the door jam to keep sparks out. Bring in flammable items that may be outside your home, like toys and firewood. Bring in your water hose so it does not burn so that you can use it to put out spot fires. Fill your tub with water for emergency use.
Remember, these are all last minute measures you can take if you are surprised by a wildfire and have little time to escape. Prepare for wildfires by creating at least a 30 foot defensible space around your home, put together an escape route and identify safe green areas where you can seek refuge if an emergency arises.
For more tips on preparing for wildfires, visit readyforwildfire.org for updates from Cal Fire and information on protecting your home from a wildfire and creating an evacuation plan. Carry the information with you on the Cal Fire app.
Including the six p’s in your kit works great, but one size does not always fit all. Make sure to spend a little extra time to take stock of those important items that are unique to you. For more tips, visit https://t.co/jEN1Hd2eSd pic.twitter.com/EmaWNipdgG— CAL FIRE (@CAL_FIRE) June 9, 2019