Colorado fires live updates: thousands evacuated from homes
The rapid Colorado wildfires on Thursday that forced tens of thousands of people to flee and destroyed hundreds of homes were a sad reminder that wildfires have become a permanent phenomenon in the American West.
It is never too early to plan for a potential evacuation, even if you are not in an area immediately affected by smoke or flames. Forest fires can spread very quickly, travel erratically and travel great distances, especially when blown by the wind, as Thursday’s fires were, experts said.
Here are some suggestions to prepare for such an emergency.
Before the fire
Make a plan. Families should define a meeting point in case they are separated and map at least two escape routes.
Prepare an emergency supply kit. Think beyond a flashlight, batteries, food, and water. Cal Fire, the firefighting agency of California, a state that logs thousands of wildfires a year, recommends assembling a three-day supply of non-perishable food and three gallons of water per person. Also pack a change of clothes, prescription drugs, and extra glasses or contact lenses. If you have pets, don’t forget about pet food and medicine.
Keep important documents together. Gather birth certificates, title deeds, insurance records, and other essential documents. In addition to being difficult to replace, some documents may be needed to file claims after the fire.
When the fire approaches
Prepare your house. If you have time, move flammable items like wood piles, brush, and propane tanks at least 30 feet from your home. Close all windows and doors, but leave them unlocked after you’ve evacuated, so firefighters can enter. Turn on outdoor lights so the firefighters can see the house through the smoke. Turn off the gas at the meter and turn off the air conditioning.
Fill the tank. Keep the family car full of gasoline to avoid delays.
Go to the ATM. Cash is essential after emergencies. Also keep your credit cards handy.
Tune in to local media. There is no better source of information on evacuation orders, routes and shelters, said Brandi Richard, public affairs manager for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “Monitoring their websites is really important because as things happen they share them on social media. “
Once you decide to evacuate
You don’t need to wait for an order. This is especially true in densely populated areas where there can be traffic jams.
Prepare a “take-out bag”. Make sure you have the essentials, especially if you can’t access your first aid kit. Denver Emergency Management Office suggest that you bring the following: medication, important documents, clothing, cash, blanket, face masks, sanitizing water for hands, and snacks.
Take your electronics. Cell phones, personal computers, backup hard drives, and chargers should all go in the car, along with the emergency kit, personal documents, family memorabilia, cash, and credit cards.
Don’t forget about pets. They will be afraid.
Be smart in the car. Close your windows and use recirculating air conditioning. Tune in to the local radio for safe routes.