Holstein: With wildfire season here: Be prepared - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Opinion

Holstein: With wildfire season here: Be prepared

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Posted: Monday, July 8, 2013 2:51 pm | Updated: 3:40 pm, Thu Oct 24, 2013.

It’s no secret: Arizona is no stranger to wildfires. The Doce Fire has burned more than 6,700 acres near Prescott — the state’s first major wildfire in what could be a rougher-than-normal wildfire season (Editor’s note: After receiving this the Yarnell Hill Fire happened near Prescott, killing 19 firefighters on June 30). 

Last year, the Gladiator Fire near Crown King claimed 16,000-plus acres. In 2011, the Wallow Fire — the largest in state history — ravaged 530,000-plus acres, destroyed 32 homes and forced the evacuation of nearly 10,000 people in eastern Arizona.

We know we’re at risk, so it’s vital we work to keep our community safe by preparing for wildfires before they happen. With increasingly dry conditions and near-daily red flag warnings, it’s essential that you set aside time to update your plans in case of a wildfire.

While preparing for a wildfire, your first priority is to protect your family and property. Creating an evacuation plan is a simple way to do this. Select a place for family members to meet outside your neighborhood in case you can’t get home or you need to evacuate, then identify two routes out of your neighborhood in case the primary route is blocked. And make sure to share this plan with your entire family. Talk to everyone in your household about what to do.

Evacuation orders can come quickly, and having an emergency preparedness kit ready will save you vital time. When packing your supplies, forecast what you’ll need for at least 72 hours, and include a first aid kit, medications, canned food, a manual can opener, bottled water, maps of the area, flashlights and a battery-powered radio with extra batteries. If you already have a kit, now is an ideal time to check your kit and replace anything that’s expired. Keep legal and identifying documents easily accessible — consider keeping copies on a password-protected flash drive to ensure your privacy. Also, set aside household items that can be used as fire tools — a rake, an ax, a shovel, a bucket and a chainsaw or a handsaw.

Everyone should maintain a comprehensive list of their possessions. Photographs are a great tool, but you can also create a list on nothing more than a sheet of notebook paper. Go through each room of your home, describing each item — when you bought it and how much it cost. And don’t forget the attic, the basement and the garage. While it’s important to note expensive items, be sure to include cheaper items, too — things like clothes, bath towels, pots, pans and tools. These costs can accumulate quickly if you have to replace the basics.

Once you have completed your inventory, leave a sealed copy with relatives or friends, or store it in a safe deposit box. Don’t leave your only copy at home, where it might be destroyed. Even a partial list is better than nothing, should a wildfire strike. You’ll have the peace of mind that comes from taking action, rather than waiting to be a victim.

• Natasha Holstein is the community preparedness and resilience manager for the American Red Cross Grand Canyon Chapter.

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