Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Ready to go
Fires are once again raging across the West. The season is barely underway, and already thousands of acres, hundreds of structures and too many lives have been destroyed. No need to argue about climate change or the need to tend to our forests, the reality is, fires of epic proportion are becoming the norm.
I like to think it is not going to happen in my town, but of course that is naivety. I live in the forest.
So far, my neighborhood has been spared, but others not so far away from here have not been as lucky. Not unlike cancer, it is becoming more common to know someone who knows someone who has been afflicted. Six degrees of separation in a new light.
Living near our local airport, I hear the almost daily sounds of Cal Fire aircraft responding to a blaze — taking off and returning to refuel on a much too frequent basis. Conversations turn to what to take and how to prepare in case of a mandatory evacuation.
Prepping for the worst
Not surprising to those who know me, I am not prepared. Though I know what I would take if given the order to leave, I can’t say I would be able to do so in a timely manner. Discussing this with my daughter a few days ago, I rattled off the list of “p’s” I have been trained to remember in case of evacuation: passport (and other important papers), PC, pets, prescriptions, pictures. She requested a family heirloom be added to the list.
I don’t envision a mad scramble, but I realize there were many items I hadn’t thought about taking. I have mentally pictured the location of everything I thought I would need to pack, but the list is growing.
I am not good with waste. I tend to hang onto anything I find remotely useful. Should a fire break out in my area, I optimistically believe there would be time to pack all the valuables before having to leave. How much time could it take? Ten minutes? Thirty?
Honestly, I know better. The reality is that when many get the call to go, it is a call to go at once. Often in the middle of the night. Fire does not consider sleep schedules or convenience. It is a fierce beast.
This county survived and recovered from a horrendous fire 30 years ago. On Sept. 11, 1988, a fire broke out that destroyed over 33,000 acres, almost 150 homes and close to 100 vehicles. Other structures, and possessions were also lost, but miraculously, there were no fatalities.
There have been a handful of large fires since that one and there is no reason to believe it cannot happen again. It’s so important to be aware of the dry conditions and to be smart around fire. Stray ash on a windy day can end with devastation in these conditions. In addition to being smart about flames, we should also be prepared and to have a plan.
Making a ‘Go bag’
I am committed to getting a “Go bag” ready. It is a bag that should already be packed in case of an emergency and is about 15 years overdue. I understand it should contain plenty of water, non-perishable food, a first-aid kit, a flashlight, batteries and a change of clothes.
I would also include face wipes or towelettes, an old-fashioned battery powered radio, a phone charger and a USB stick that has photos of valuables and copies of important documents like credit cards, birth certificates and insurance information.
My friend who woke in the middle of the night last year to see flames in her yard would also suggest a pair of shoes, just in case. It is a good idea to have a duplicate version in my car and one at a workplace. The smoke that continues to descend on our town from the neighboring fires, should be enough of a reminder for anyone. It has cured my propensity toward procrastination.
As I watch the television and see devastated families going through the rubble that was their home, I hear the same message. Stuff is stuff. Lives are what matter.
I am thankful to live in a community that can be counted on to lift others up when a need arises. We take care of one another. There is great comfort in that.
If disaster does strike, the true priority is to get yourself and your loved ones to safety. Stuff can be replaced, though a little bit of preparation might make a terrible situation a tad bit less terrible.
Hopefully, that “go bag” will sit unused. It is one time I will be okay with waste.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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