Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fi-yur! Fi-yur!

The last few days have been anxious ones for Okanagan residents. Wildfires have swept across several suburbs of Kelowna, some 25-30 miles north of us by road, a shorter distance as the crow flies.

Thousands of people have been forced to evacuate literally at a moment's notice when a fire exploded out of control in a West Kelowna neighbourhood. Just when the fire crews get one fire beat down another flares out of control. Today's worry is a 10,000 acre fire on Terrace Mountain north of Kelowna. More evacuations. [Photo by BC Forestry]

It's been only moderately smoky here before but this morning the smoke moved in so thickly that the solar-powered lights came on, and we had to turn on the lights inside.

Within the last few minutes a thunderstorm moved in. Lots of thunder and lightening. We lost power briefly and in the past couple of minutes all that thunder and lightening have been accompanied by a downpour. YAY We need rain desperately. The forests are dry as tinder, full of dead trees from the pine beetle, and flammable. All it needs is a lightening strike, a spark from a backfiring engine, or most stupidly of all, a smoldering cigarette butt tossed out a car window.

But all this has gotten us to thinking. There are many reasons why people are called to evacuate. Fire comes to mind in this area, with its dry pine forests, but a tanker containing chemicals could overturn on the road, we could have a flood (we do live on the beach after all). It would be smart to be prepared to run at very short notice.

My friend Shona lives in the Australian bush country where fire is an ever present danger. She sent me a letter outlining how she prepares each spring, just in case they are called on to evacuate.

She writes, "Pre fire season I get together a bag containing insurance documents for boat, cars, house and contents, life insurance, copies of recent bank statements and receipts of major purchases that are still under warranty, also copies of our prescriptions.

[I'd add bank cards, credit cards, ID and personal documents like birth, citizenship and marriage certificates. Passports, copies of professional licenses or diplomas and your medical files, as well as your pet's health and vaccination records. AND the laptop, which for me holds my genealogy files and contacts.]

Anything that is really important can go into a second bag ie; photo albums and items of sentimental value etc.

I also like to have a bag made up with a couple of changes of clothing for each of us, plus travel-sized toiletries, toothbrushes and towels. If you wear contacts pack and extra case and solutions. It is a good idea to keep this bag in the car so you don't have to bother with it at the last minute.

I figure if I have all of these things plus our mobile phone and a battery operated radio we will be OK. Most things are replaceable, documents are not, so they have to take priority. Don't forget your glasses and/or contact lenses, if you wear them."

Take your medications with you. You don't know how long you'll be away. I'd add the potassium meter for us and the blood glucose meter for the cat, plus enough of his special diabetic cat food to last several days. We keep the cat carrier by the door, along with his harness and leash. Pop a clean towel in for his comfort and he'd be ready to go, or at least prepared.

While I've been writing this the rain has stopped. We need more but guess we'll settle for what little we got. Five minutes of pouring rain is better than no rain at all. The rain cleared the air of most of the smoke, so it should be more comfortable outside.

Our thoughts are with the fire fighters who are out there in this heat, giving it their all. About the only thing we can do is to make sure we don't make more work for them by being ill-prepared in case of an emergency.


Anonymous said...

Yep, I'll second Auntie Deb's suggestions. I keep a "go bag" by the door with our important papers that have arrived since my last trip to our safe deposit box. I keep extra $ in my wallet for this type of emergency. A spare set or two of clothes, undies and some tennis shoes, a couple of days worth of kitty food, a bottle of water and our meds in a second bag. Kitties go into carriers and I keep tools, a flashlight, a pillow and a quilt in the van. I hate the thought that we might ever have to evacuate, but we never know. It's best to be prepared.

Laurie said...

Wow you are close to me. I live in Calgary and have been watching those fires on t.v.