It’s all too easy to become complacent, and the early high temperatures and smoke from regional fires filling the valley on the first red flag warning day were a needed reminder. Fire preparedness comes to mind: reducing flammables on your property and organizing your resources for evacuation and/or power outages.
Reducing or eliminating flammables requires clean-up and creating a defensible space around your home. Leaf litter on asphalt composite roofs and in gutters needs to be cleaned off and out. Rural residential properties especially need to pay attention to defensible space, raking out dry grass and other dried vegetation. Before the season gets started in earnest, CalFire, Schell-Vista, or any local fire district may have time to come and make a property assessment for you.
Air quality, even from distant fires, can be a serious issue, so we urge you to plan ahead and get a supply of the proper N-95 masks.
In the event of a preemptive PG&E power outage, which may last up to four days, emergency preparedness will be critical. If you have a well, set it up so it can be powered by a generator. Have plenty of bottled water on hand, preferably in five-gallon containers with a dispenser. Store enough dry and canned food goods to last a week. Have a propane-fueled camping stove on hand. And, be ready to use the least amount of water possible, and use it for drinking and cooking.
Unless you’ve made arrangements to stay with friends out of the area, have some basic camping gear on hand: tent, shade tarp, ropes and strings, sleeping bag, clothing, food, cooking gear, and water. Store it in your car. Organize your critical papers and personal information in a way that it can be quickly located and packed. Back-up your computer on a small-sized external hard drive or keep critical data securely online. Plan in advance what objects and mementos you will want to take with you quickly in an emergency.
For evacuation locations, think of the coast. Coastal communities were welcoming and very helpful during the 2017 fires. Lawson’s Landing, with great generosity, helped many people.
Check in ahead of time with the city and county to learn who their point people are, what their fire emergency plans are, and what resources and networks are available. If there is a fire emergency, tune into KSVY (91.3) and refer to the City of Sonoma website. During 2017, the city became the de facto emergency government agency for the whole lower valley.
Finally, should an emergency occur, we remind you that we’re all in this together. But, the spirit of cooperation and mutual support can also extend to other civic areas, and not just during emergencies. Many community members struggle with access to food and shelter on a daily basis. Keep that in mind as you prepare to take care of yourself and those close to you.
Our experience with the 2017 fires, and knowing so many people who lost everything, points us to what’s really important in life. It’s not the stuff, and as we take steps to prepare and survive an emergency, it’s a reminder that it’s the strength and caring of the community that matters most.
— Sun Editorial Board