Aug 31

Are You Prepared for the California Wildfires?

Angeles National Forest Fire (smoke)

California Wildfires, Angeles National Forest (Flickr/donielle)

I remember our first experience with California wildfires. My daughter and I were living in Burbank when one of the first California wildfires of the season erupted on a nearby hillside.

It was October of 2003 and we’d only been in LA for a couple of months.  I was frightened and stayed glued to the tv day and night wondering what I’d do if we had to evacuate.

There were fires scattered all about the area. The air was full of smoke.  I went out and bought white face masks and filled the van with gas, preparing for the worst. This was not something I was expecting when we made the move to L.A. for my daughter to pursue an acting career!

Santa Ana Winds Fuel the Wildfires

The wildfires were being fueled by the fierce Santa Ana winds, making it difficult for the firefighters to contain the fires.

The air quality was so poor that the kids couldn’t go out for lunch or recess. There was a thick haze of smoke, and pieces of ash were falling from the sky. It almost looked like snow falling…

California Wildfires 2009

Now it is 2009. We are once again dealing with California wildfires (as we have most years since 2003).  The Santa Ana winds are not blowing, but the fires have burned many acres in the Angeles National Forest and are continuing to spread.  As I stepped out of my house this morning, I could not only see the smoke in the air but I could smell it.

My family and I drove to Dick Blick Art Supply in Pasadena yesterday. We weren’t thinking about the fires, but as we headed close to the burning areas near the 210 freeway, we could see flames on the hills and huge, dark clouds of smoke filling the air.

Stay Tuned in to KFI/640 for Updates on the California Wildfires

We kept the radio on KFI (640 am) to hear the ongoing coverage of the fires. As we listened to the evacuation orders for a number of nearby areas, I thought of all the people being forced to leave their homes.

We saw people lined up outside of their vehicles watching the fires, possibly shut off from their homes near the burning areas. We watched the fire helicopters dropping water and retardant on the fires.

Time to Get Prepared!

All this made me start thinking about the need to get prepared for the fires and smoke spreading closer to our home and the possibility of needing to evacuate.  The fire season is just beginning, so these issues are likely to continue for the next several months.

If you are in Southern California, you are no doubt concerned about the wildfires and with good reason. How will the California wildfires affect you?

Are you prepared for the California wildfires?

Now is a good time to think about whether you are prepared for the California wildfires. You need to do what you can to protect yourself, your family, and your most important possessions as the California wildfires threaten you and your home.

How can you prevent respiratory problems from the smoke and ash? Will you need to evacuate?  What will you take with you if you have to evacuate?  Are you ready to leave your home at a moment’s notice?

Poor Air Quality

The air quality during the California wildfires is very poor, even for those not terribly close to the fires. For those with asthma or other respiratory problems, or for the elderly and infants, it can be a major problem. Even if you can’t really see or smell the smoke, if you are anywhere near wildfires, it is there. Of course, breathing smoke is not good for anyone.

What If You Have to Evacuate?

There is a real possibility that you might have to evacuate during a wildfire. Are you prepared to leave if necessary?  Even if there is not a fire close to where you are, remember that sparks can travel many miles.  A single spark can start a new fire miles away in an instant.

Here are eleven steps to take to help prepare you for the dangers of the California wildfires:

  1. Buy face masks that can filter out smoke and ash and wear them when you go outside if the air quality is poor. An “N-95” mask will filter out some ash particles from the air and provide some protection. The masks for filtering out sawdust will really not help. Many drug stores will carry a small supply of different types of masks, and some of those do a pretty good job of filtering out smoke as well as particles, but those are much more expensive. You can check out more information on filtering masks on this Respirator Fact Sheet.
  2. Buy a good air purifier or several air purifiers to filter the air in your home.
  3. Keep windows closed to keep the smoke out and run your air conditioner and indoor fans to stay cool. Change the filters to your air conditioner if they have not recently been changed.
  4. Stay indoors as much as possible, and don’t participate in any vigorous exercise outdoors until the air quality improves.
  5. Keep the air exchange system in your vehicle on recirculate to avoid bringing smoke into your vehicle.
  6. Make sure to keep inhalers or other respiratory medications on hand in case they are needed.
  7. Fill your vehicles up with gas so you are prepared to evacuate.
  8. Pack up important papers and medications to take with you in case of evacuation.
  9. Pack up photographs and other prized possessions that you cannot replace and keep them in one area so that you can quickly grab them if evacuation orders are given.
  10. Determine what the best evacuation routes from your home are, taking care to avoid road closures in the burning areas.
  11. Determine where you will go if you must evacuate. Make arrangements for lodging with friends, family, or in a hotel far enough from the fires to be safe. If you have animals, make sure to make arrangements for them as well.

There is no way to truly be prepared to deal with the California wildfires, but you will feel better if you do what you can do to protect yourself and your family. Don’t wait until the last minute to start planning.

Hopefully, there won’t be the need to evacuate. But won’t you feel much less stressed if you are prepared to leave quickly if the evacuation orders are given?

Please subscribe to Your Young Actor’s Newsletter for more on this topic and many other topics related to living and breathing and acting in the Los Angeles area.

To Your Health and Safety,

Debbie Sikkema

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  1. Jason@Big and Tall jackets

    It is a shame that these wildfires effect the northwest part of the country on a yearly basis. You would think something could be done to try and prevent this.

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