How to Stay Safe During Wildfire Season

Cayde Schmedding, Staff Writer

As denoted by the gray skies and throat-burning air, it’s fire season in California. This year lightning storms on Aug. 16 catalyzed over 550 fires. The Sonoma Lake Napa Unit(LNU) Lightning Complex Fire swept across five counties and burned 341,000 acres, making it the second-largest wildfire in California history. The fires displaced thousands of people and destroyed over 1,000 buildings.

Last year, according to CAL FIRE, there were over 7,860 wildfires which burned over 259,823 acres. These fires destroyed 732 buildings and caused three fatalities. Despite these statistics, with planning and procedure, it’s possible to stay safe and even protect your home.

“Have a plan you’re prepared to execute and have the ability to evacuate rapidly. For example, have all necessary medications available or if a family member is impaired have the necessary equipment available,” Orinda-Moraga Fire Chief Dave Winnaker said.

Another strategy is to have an emergency kit on hand or in a vehicle which contains all necessary items. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends packing your emergency kit with the ‘Five Ps’: people, prescriptions, papers, personal needs, and priceless items. Prescriptions are drugs, glasses, and hearing aids. Papers include birth certificates and other important legal documents. Evacuating citizens should consider clothes, food, water, first aid kits, money, phones, radios, soap, and other necessities.

“We’ve [his family] created a plan depending on the direction of the wildfire and we have fold-up ladders in our bedrooms. We also have an emergency kit in the basement with epi-pens, first aid, and a radio” junior Byron Chan said.

Oftentimes, before a wildfire, emergency services will send a notice. “Use Highway 24 to evacuate quickly so that the community is safe and so firefighters have room to work. It’s much harder to put out the fire when civilians are still evacuating,” Winnaker said. 

According to Get Prepare, the Canadian Government’s fire prevention program, clearing combustible materials such as dried leaves can keep a house safer during a wildfire, and pulling off all drapes, curtains, or blinds can stop the fire from entering the house.

Although Contra Costa County historically had less fires than the rest of California, our community has a very high fire danger. The Moraga-Orinda fire department has more information on their website. The Orinda-Moraga emergency services use the Nixle service to send notifications during an emergency. To sign up for Nixle, text Orinda-Moraga’s zip code to the phone number 888777.