Fires & Evacuations

Torey Posts: 5,690 admin

Fires are ravaging western North America and central Canada and other areas are experiencing our fires in the form of smoke. In BC, yesterday we lost the small community of Monte Lake. Lytton was destroyed a month ago. Evacuation alerts have been posted for 3 subdivsions on the outskirts of Kamloops, a city of around 100,000 people. California's Dixe fire in the third largest ever in the state and has consumed the town of Greenville. An estimated 100 structures have been lost in Colfax. Washington and Oregon both have large fires as well as Saskatchewan, Manitoba and parts of eastern Ontario.

Tactical evacuations have been occurring because of some people ignoring evacuation orders. This means you must leave immediately, no time for anything and you are generally escorted out in a convoy. I think this is partly due to the loss of trust residents have come to have for information handed out by forestry or government officials and partly due to the lack of experience some of the firefighting teams have with the terrain, access points, water sources, etc. in comparison with local residents. (I'm speaking from a BC perspective on this as residents have been subject to high handed tactics by some forestry and government officials in past fire seasons.) But tactical evacs are also needed because of the speed at which the fires are advancing. Firefighters on both sides of the Canada-US border are reporting fire activity is more aggressive than anything ever previously seen.

When an evacuation order comes, please leave immediately. When an evacuation alert comes, pack your vehicles so that you can be ready to leave as soon as it becomes an evacuation order. Sheltering in place is not an option during wildfires. Don't wait behind thinking you can protect your home or business. Don't wait until you are running to keep ahead of the flames. Anyone who has done this will tell you what a frightening situation it is to drive through an area with flames on both sides of the road and smoke so thick it is worse than dark.

I currently am not in any danger but a lightning storm could come at any time. I have just backed up my computer and have all my memory sticks packed in my main go bag along with any important papers. I refreshed my go bag at the beginning of the heat dome in June. I have packed to leave before and know what other things to take.

There are lots of resources online for what to pack in a go-bag. Some are posted in evacuation/disaster preparedness discussions here on the forum. The most important thing is to be prepared to go as soon as the evacuation order is put in place. Or sooner if you feel you are in danger.

Have your action plan in place. What to take, where to go, who to contact. Plan for more than one escape route. You can also do some emergency prep around your house if you are on evacuation alert before getting an order to leave. Bring in any outdoor/patio furniture or anything that is flammable. Connect any hoses to outdoor faucets for use by firefighters. If you have a pool, have a sign to place in your driveway so that firefighters know there is a water source. Turn off BBQs and move portable propane tanks away from structures. Park your car in an immediate egress position (pointed out the driveway). Keep your keys on you or beside your bed at night. Leave all outside lights on.

For anyone who is experiencing high smoke levels, please take the warning about lung health seriously. Those fine particulates can reach deep into our lungs and cause permanent issues.

Everyone STAY SAFE. My condolences to anyone who has experienced loss from one of these fires. Deepest thanks to all the firefighters on the ground and in the air.


  • Lisa K
    Lisa K Posts: 1,946 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @torey so happy to hear that you are safe so far! And to everyone please STAY SAFE!

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,604 admin

    Thank you for this important reminder, @torey. Our smoke is not leaving our area. It keeps fluctuating and has gone up to 7, which is highly unusual for us.

    It is interesting that how to prepare & remain prepared for fires & flooding or even a tornado is not something most people are well versed in on the prairies. Sure, the Red River Valley (basically a wide swath of extremely flat land) south of Winnipeg has had historic massive & devastating floods (the last in 1997), and we have had a few more more locally, but once an event is over, people quickly forget what to do. You have given me a bit more knowledge that I didn't have before. Things that should be common sense, but they are missing from common knowledge.

    We are not by any fires here, but the one to the east of the province is massive. Here, our pastures are dry, hay is scarce, harvest on whatever hasn't been destroyed by the heat is starting (and they say harvest season will be very short & poor), there are massive cracks in the ground from the drought, and the trees are showing signs of stress by popping up many new saplings & now are dropping their green leaves to compensate for the lack of moisture.

    In my particular location, we haven't seen more than a few drops of rain (quite literally) in weeks...or a month? I lost track. This has been highly unusual. Some places are tightly conserving water already, & some are close.

    In the Interlake (between Lake Manitoba & Lake Winnipeg) they have been in a state of emergency because of drought for weeks. This same area had massive flooding just a few years ago.

    It would not take much to start a fire anywhere here. A spark from a train, atv, or other vehicle, a cigarette or a lightning strike could easily start something that could easily get out of hand.

  • MaryRowe
    MaryRowe Posts: 736 ✭✭✭✭

    When I was a child growing up in eastern Washington state, we always expected a wild fire in the area in mid-to-late summer and prepared for it as best we could, but it was still terrifying if it actually happened. The scale of the wildfires in those days can't begin to compare with what is happening now. The smoke from the fires has actually made it this far east and is affecting the air quality in Missouri. It is hard to even imagine what people out West in the midst of it are going through.

    Thank you for posting this valuable advice on preparedness. It is a good reminder for us all in dealing with natural disasters; also a good reminder to keep those who are in harm's way right now in our prayers (and time to think about contributing to Red Cross or other disaster relief).

    It is good to know you are safe for now--may you continue safe!

  • shllnzl
    shllnzl Posts: 1,820 ✭✭✭✭✭

    We currently have unhealthy air and fog-like skies due to smoke from the California fires.

    We almost lost our cabin to wildfire a month ago. We now see charred trees visible from our deck. Three years ago it was the Brian Head fire that threatened it.

    Last year we saw three fires from our back deck here in the city.

    We have been lucky so far and even got a little bit of rain.

    I pray for all who are threatened and the farm animals who are unable to leave.

    Be prepared; I try to be.

  • Cornelius
    Cornelius Posts: 872 ✭✭✭✭

    @torey , @LaurieLovesLearning , and @shllnzl I am glad to hear that you are all safe! Thank you for the preparedness info!

  • nksunshine27
    nksunshine27 Posts: 343 ✭✭✭

    @torey ,@LaurieLovesLearning Coming from a person that did wildland fire fighting in the US for over 5 years I have seen a lot of devastation had close calls myself, deploying a fire shelter is nerve racking and scary but as far as evac orders yes have a clear plan of action for you and your animals. it gets harder and harder on firefighters to fight forest fires with more people wanting to live in the forest and the trees and not having a clearing around their house for fire mitigation, droughts don't help, and neither does bad forest management due to environmental policies. ive seen burnt timber just sit when it can be logged and then because it just sat then it becomes fodder for a bigger fire kinda like charcoal in a grill.

    there has been a lot of "political" crap going on in the wildfire fighting community, there are private contractors against other organizations its like the government parties its sad. anyway just some words of advice the trees are nice but make a defenible space around your house and out buildings if you going to live in the forest. cause in the beginning we were not taught to do structure fires and now we are. that and the human caused wildfires are sheer careless people not thinking . sorry i'll get off my soap box now. ya'll stay safe

  • vickeym
    vickeym Posts: 2,153 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Very happy you are all still safe. Will be praying for you all and for those in danger. Have been within a 5 mile evacuation warning in the last few years. Have friends who lost their places, others who have had very close calls. It is never easy. One couple (good friends) left their place on the run with their pets and the fire literally licking the back window of their suv.

    Thankfully this season we are getting a rainy summer so we are spared of the extreme fire threat in our area. Not all of Alaska is having our weather however. All anyone can do is try to be prepared and ready in case it does hit their areas. Stay safe everyone! Our prayers and thoughts are with you.