Authorities have arrested a suspect who they believe started 9 wildfires in California. While the motive is still unclear, at the time of this writing, the fires have burned over 100,000 acres, they threaten more than 5000 homes and are only about 20 percent contained. The fires spread so fast that dozens of people became trapped in their homes and communities while thousands of residents who were out and about were not able to return home as well.
Recipe for Disaster
California, and much of the west, represents a tinderbox that’s just ready to ignite. Drought, high temperatures, low humidity and gusty winds all create the perfect conditions for small fires to quickly burn out of control and cover tens of thousands of acres. While the majority of wildfires this season have been caused by mother nature in the form of lightning strikes, a handful have been caused by arson or the carelessness of people who didn’t follow basic precautions before burning.
The suspect in question faces life in prison and millions of dollars in fines if convicted. His actions were intentional and devastating. However, a lot of people don’t realize that they can also be charged with a crime even if they accidentally start a fire due to negligence. Consequently, a fire accidentally getting out of control during a hike, camping trip or even a backyard barbecue can technically send ordinary, good people to prison if prosecutors choose to go down that road. Be careful.
These fires also serve as an important reminder that there may be little or no time to prepare in advance of their arrival. Fires spread so fast and threaten to engulf entire communities that many evacuees only have a couple of minutes to gather their belongings and flee. Conversely, people who left the area to go to work, school or the store may find themselves unable to get home. Whatever options they can fall back on will depend on how prepared or equipped they were for this possibility at the time.
If you live in an area where a wildfire threat exists, make sure that you are prepared. Have an evacuation plan in place. Have bug out bags and survival kits ready, and seriously consider keeping essential items in your vehicle as well. These proactive steps will give you considerably more options if and when that time comes, and you’ll be better off than many of your neighbors as a result.
If you plan on engaging in activities that directly or indirectly involve fire, flame or sparks in a high-risk area, make sure that you are following common-sense precautions and making safety a priority. Be familiar with rules and regulations that apply to your area. Consider putting off that backyard barbecue or project until conditions are safer, and make sure that you have a way to quickly extinguish any wayward sparks or embers before they have a chance to spread. If you can’t cover those bases, don’t start a fire.
Putting good fire safety measures into practice has never been more-important, but it’s also just as important to be prepared for when a wildfire strikes as well. Make sure that you consider fires as you engage in your preparedness efforts so that you’ll have your bases covered if you’re suddenly confronted with an approaching inferno.