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Red Cross Responds To Wildfires

The National Interagency Fire Center has issued wildfire warnings across the country and the American Red Cross has opened shelters in New York and Pennsylvania to assist residents whose neighborhoods are threatened.

Red flag fire warnings are up for much of the East Coast from southern New England to the Florida panhandle. Warnings are also up in California, Nevada and Arizona.

Fires have been reported throughout Pennsylvania, including one in Berks and Chester counties where Red Cross workers are supporting a shelter for evacuated residents and more than 150 firefighters. The Red Cross also opened a shelter in Suffolk County, New York, where wildfires have consumed more than 2,000 acres. Fires have also destroyed about 1,000 acres in the George Washington National Forest in Virginia, and burned nearly 11,700 acres near Lake City in Florida.

The American Red Cross provided shelter for about 150 firefighters in Elverson, Penn., where wildfires continue to burn. Wildfires and brush fires have been reported throughout the state. (Red Cross Photo).

IF A WILDFIRE THREATENS Wildfires can spread quickly, igniting brush, trees and homes. The Red Cross has importantsteps people to follow that can lessen the threat of a wildfire. If a wildfire is burning near your neighborhood, 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. These steps will help 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 re-circulate 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.
  • Do not use anything that burns and adds to indoor air pollution, such as candles, fireplaces and gas stoves. Avoid running the vacuum cleaner 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.

GET PREPARED Being prepared can be your best offense when it comes to wildfires. You should 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. Post emergency phone numbers by every phone in your home and in everyone’s cellphone. 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.

AFTER A WILDFIRE Don’t attempt to visit your neighborhood or enter your home until officials say it is safe to do so. Hot spots could still exist, so be careful. Avoid fallen power lines and watch for ash pits. If there is no power, check to make sure the main breaker is on. Fires may cause breakers to trip. If the breakers are on and power is still not present, contact the utility company Keep your animals close and under control so hot spots don’t burn them. Wear leather gloves and heavy-soled shoes. Wet dry debris to minimize dust. Throw away any food that was exposed to heat, smoke or soot and don’t use contaminated water to wash dishes, brush teeth, prepare food, wash hands, make ice or make baby formula. Other steps you can take after the fire include:

  • Inspect your roof immediately and extinguish any sparks or embers.
  • Keep rechecking for smoke or sparks throughout your home for several hours, including the attic. Winds can blow burning embers anywhere.
  • If you have a propane tank system, contact a propane supplier. Turn off the valves and leave them closed until your supplier inspects your system..
  • If you have a heating oil tank system, contact a heating oil supplier for an inspection of your system before you use it.
  • Check your trees. Any tree that has been weakened by fire may be a hazard. Look for burns on the trunk. If the bark has been burned off or scorched, the tree will not survive and should be considered unstable.
  • Clear any vegetation within 30 feet of your home and store firewood at least 30 feet away.