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Blistering Heat and Drought Heighten Wildfire Risk


Record heat and exceptionally dry conditions continue over large parts of the South and South-Central states, prolonging this summer’s suffering and heightening the danger of wildfires.

In Texas, the Forest Service has responded to 141 fires in the last seven days. Close to 60 wildfires occurred in Oklahoma from Friday to Monday, and 22 fires have been reported in Arkansas.

Red Cross chapters have stepped up efforts to provide hydrating beverages and snacks to first responders as they battle both house fires and wildfires in the sweltering heat. In the Tulsa area, where multiple wildfires have recently erupted, the Red Cross canteened nearly continuously for five days and nights beginning last Friday.

In Central Texas, the Red Cross has been canteening for firefighters as they battle range fires, and have also opened respite centers and shelters for evacuated residents. The Red Cross chapter in the Dallas-Fort Worth area has begun a campaign to ask for the public’s help in replenishing their water and Gatorade supply for firefighters and police.

Powerful storms that hit Oklahoma earlier this week knocked out electricity in many areas. As a result, five cooling stations were opened and operated by Red Cross volunteers across Oklahoma on Tuesday.

Cooling stations have also been opened across the South. Partnering with the county emergency management office, the Red Cross has opened cooling stations a record 10 times in Charlotte, N.C., this summer, and sent volunteers to help run a cooling center open in Memphis late last week.

Heat Safety As sweltering conditions linger, heat safety remains a priority. Excessive heat can lead to sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

If someone is experiencing heat cramps in the legs or abdomen, get them to a cooler place, have them rest, lightly stretch the affected muscle, and replenish their fluids with a half a glass of cool water every 15 minutes.

If someone is exhibiting signs of heat exhaustion (cool, moist, pale or flushed skin, heavy sweating, headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, exhaustion), move them to a cooler place, remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin. Fan the person. If they are conscious, give small amounts of cool water to drink. Make sure the person drinks slowly. Watch for changes in condition. If the person refuses water, vomits or begins to lose consciousness, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.

Heat stroke is life-threatening. Signs include hot, red skin which may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness; vomiting; and high body temperature. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the person’s body by giving care as you would for heat exhaustion.

Remember:

  • Never leave children or pets alone in enclosed vehicles.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Slow down, stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.
  • Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat.
  • Take frequent breaks if working outdoors.
  • Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone or who are more likely to be affected by the heat.
  • Check on animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat. Ensure they have water and a shady place to rest.

Visit Redcross.org for more information on what to do during heat waves and droughts.

Wildfire Preparedness Being prepared can be your best offense when it comes to wildfires. Plan two ways out of your neighborhood in case one is blocked. Set up a place for family members to meet outside your neighborhood in case you can’t get home or need to evacuate. Arrange for temporary housing at a friend or relative’s home outside the area.

Other steps you can take include:

  • Make sure driveway entrances and your house number or address are clearly marked.
  • Identify and maintain an adequate water source outside your home, such as a small pond, cistern, well or swimming pool.
  • Set aside household items that can be used as fire tools: a rake, ax, hand saw or chain saw, bucket and shovel. You may need to fight small fires before emergency responders arrive.
  • Select building materials and plants that resist fire.
  • Regularly clean roofs and gutters.

If a Wildfire is Reported in Your Area Be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, and listen to local radio and television stations for updated emergency information.

Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape. Confine your pets to one room so you can find them if you need to get out quickly. Listen to local radio and television stations for updated information, and be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

To limit your exposure to smoke:

  • Keep indoor air clean by closing windows and doors to prevent outside smoke from getting in.
  • Use the recycle or re­circulate mode on the air conditioner in your home or car. If you do not have air conditioning and it is too hot to stay inside with closed windows, seek shelter elsewhere.
  • When smoke levels are high, do not use anything that burns and adds to indoor air pollution, such as candles, fireplaces and gas stoves. Do not vacuum because it stirs up particles that are already inside your home.
  • If you have asthma or another lung disease, follow your health care provider's advice and seek medical care if your symptoms worsen.