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Dry Conditions Boost Wildfire Threat

An unusually dry winter has provided ripe conditions for drought and wildfires across much of the United States. The American Red Cross recommends helpful steps that can educate people if a wildfire threatens their community.

Large fires are currently burning in Arizona and Nevada. Parts of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and southern Alabama could see wildfires develop. Dry conditions are also a problem in the Northern Plains and Upper Mississippi regions and along the Eastern Seaboard from North Carolina to Maine.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO The Red Cross reminds you to avoid any kind of outdoor burning in the affected states. Smokers should make sure their cigarettes are extinguished and avoid tossing cigarettes from their vehicles. One small spark can ignite the extremely dry brush and flames can spread quickly, igniting brush, trees and homes.

Other steps include:

  • Clear any vegetation within 30 feet of one’s home and store firewood at least 30 feet away.
  • Ensure 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.
  • Clean roofs and gutters regularly.

SAFETY STEPS The Red Cross Wildfire Safety Checklist is available to learn what steps to follow if a wildfire is burning near your neighborhood. For instance, back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape. You should also confine pets to one room so they can find them if they 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.

BE READY A preparedness plan can be the best offense when it comes to wildfires. It should include two ways out of the neighborhood in case one is blocked. Set up a place for family members to meet outside the neighborhood in case they can’t get home or need to evacuate. Arrange for temporary housing at a friend or relative’s home outside the area. Post emergency phone numbers by every phone in the home and in everyone’s cellphone.