The King Fire Chronicles: Life on the Edge of a Natural Disaster

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By Daisy Luther

For eleven days now, forest fires have raged around us. Worsened by the drought on the West Coast, a seemingly unquenchable inferno is eating up the trees, the brush, and anything that gets in its way. It’s like the fire is a living thing, one that wants to get free and consume everything.

I’m rarely forthcoming about even our general location, for the obvious privacy reasons, but I want to share what it’s like for a real family – mine – to live on the brink of disaster for an extended period of time.

For the past week and a half, we’ve wondered on a daily basis if THIS will be the day that our home burns to the ground, consumed by wildfire. We’ve wondered constantly if we will have to evacuate in the midst of cooking dinner, if someone will pound on the door in the middle of the night, or if the fire will jump the creek at the bottom of the next canyon over.

Natural barriers have allowed us a modicum safety, but we’ve been very watchful. This isn’t the usual article about prepping. It doesn’t contain a checklist with all of the things you need to pack. There are plenty of those out there. This is a diary of what it’s like to live in an area that has been declared a disaster zone, and to be able to see the flames from your porch. It’s about the state of being ready for action, but not being able to take it…and instead…just waiting.

It has always been my plan to bug in, but sometimes Mother Nature says otherwise. In situations like this, the most important preparedness skill you can have is adaptability. You have to roll with what comes your way immediately, and resist the urge to grimly stick with Plan A.

On the first day of the fire, I had gone through our BOBs and the safe with our documents. There was a distance between us and the fire, and although I was aware that evacuation was a possibility, it seemed rather unlikely.  Nonetheless, I made certain that all of the necessary items were there…the identification documents, the necessary personal items, the insurance paperwork. (You can find great evacuation checklists HERE.)   My daughter had gone away for the weekend with a friend’s family, and I worried vaguely about what would happen if I was forced to leave home before she returned. I sent her a message and gave her instructions that if for any reason she was not able to return to our home in the mountains, that she was to be dropped off at a family friend’s place that was further down in the foothills, and less likely to be affected.

I was even more relieved than I had expected to be when she arrived home. We sat down to watch a movie and pushed the fire to the back of our minds for the evening.

pville fire
This photo was taken downtown at sunset on the 3rd night of the fire

Over the next few days, the fire spread dramatically, but to our guilty relief it was spreading in the opposite direction. It occupied our thoughts, though, because the huge ominous cloud of smoke was visible, literally, from everywhere we went.  The drive to school and back each day was filled with shock about the shape of the cloud, the texture, the color, the massive size.

Imagine living next door to a vicious dog, one trained to rip intruders apart, who snarled a warning to everyone who passed.  You’d give the fence wide berth, keep a watchful eye on the beast, and hope and pray it never escaped from that chainlink fence and came barreling into your yard, bearing down on you with grim hunger. That was the fire – a ravenous beast, watching and lunging but kept safely behind a barrier…for now.

I registered my phone with the county’s reverse 911 service so that I could immediately receive important alerts, instead of waiting for a knock at the door by officials.

***

The next day, on the way home from school, we saw a cloud formation that was unlike anything we’d seen before. Thick, particularly dense smoke spewed out the top of the fire. Rosie immediately compared it to the mushroom cloud in the series, Jericho.

 

pyrocumulus
Rosie took this photo of the pyrocumulus cloud from the next town over.

It turns out, she was right. The formation was a pyrocumulus cloud, which “is produced by the intense heating of the air from the surface. The intense heat induces convection, which causes the air mass to rise to a point of stability, usually in the presence of moisture. Phenomena such as volcanic eruptionsforest fires, and occasionally industrial activities can induce formation of this cloud. The detonation of a nuclear weapon in the atmosphere will also produce a pyrocumulus, in the form of a mushroom cloud, which is made by the same mechanism.” (source)

The eerie cloud lingered over us for another day, hovering like the physical manifestation of a bad omen.

I went to bed on Thursday night feeling as though we were out of danger. I spoke with friends and family from far away and assured them that things were better. Sure, it was a bit smokey, but the area to the Northeast was the danger zone.

I woke up in the night coughing. I got up and closed the windows. I checked the fire website to be certain there was no imminent danger and went back to sleep, sealing the smoke outside our house.

A few hours later, I awoke to the dog pacing anxiously. The smell of burning wood lingered heavy in the air, despite the fact that the windows were tightly closed.

It was around 5:30 am, and I got up to let the dog go outside and do her business. The smoke was so thick it hit me like a physical blow. I quickly shut the door and booted up my laptop.  Thank goodness for the internet, I thought to myself as I logged on to Facebook and the local page with fire updates. Simultaneously I pulled up the state’s fire website.

The wind, it seemed, had changed. And with it, our ephemeral previous relief that we were safe. I wondered, will this be the day that the SHTF for us?

According to the fire website, we were safe for the time being. The smoke burned our eyes and made us cough – even the dog was not immune. The thick oppressive fog from any scary movie you’ve ever seen had nothing on the smoke hovering dense in our yard. I pushed the recirculation button in the car to keep us free of at least some of the smoky air.

After dropping the kids off at school, I knew that the time had come to pack up for real, If conditions remained the same, this might be the last day in our little home.

I hurried from the vehicle back into the house, unconsciously holding my breath, consciously covering my face with my sleeve. I got inside and let it out with a whoosh. And it was time to pack.

When you have a warning and an ample amount of time to get ready, evacuating isn’t nearly as panic-inducing.

Even though the professionals hadn’t yet rung the warning bell, the fire was just down at the bottom of the next canyon over. A slight change in conditions could mean the fire was in our front yard.

Some people questioned my decision to wait it out at this point. Our firemen had fought valiantly, protecting homes in the area. 80,000 acres gone and not a life lost. I trusted that we’d have some warning.  The process thus far was a voluntary evacuation notice, followed by a mandatory notice. I earmarked some spots on the map and decided that if the voluntary evacuations reached those points, we would leave ahead of our own evacuation notice.  This, I hoped, would allow us to beat the road congestion. I mapped out 3 routes to our secondary location, which was a friend’s home about 10 miles away.

Then, I looked around my home and thought, what would I be devastated to lose?

We had long since packed our important documents and  a few days worth of clothing and supplies. All of those vital things you must have with you when bugging out were sitting at the door. But when you think about losing every single thing you can’t fit into your vehicle…that’s simply overwhelming.

I keep my vehicle very well-supplied year round, courtesy of a few big Rubbermaid tubs. I decided in this circumstance, we’d benefit more from bringing other things, so I removed some of the less vital supplies from my SUV to free up space.

I grabbed some empty tubs I had recently purchased for stowing pantry supplies.

First, I packed up those irreplaceable things that every mother loves. Our photo albums, the baby books, and a few special framed pictures that just melt my heart.  The framed pictures of my mom and dad, taken right after their wedding.A journal that had belonged to my father, in which we “finished” his story, sweet hours spent together, shortly before he died.  My grandmother’s wedding ring, in two pieces because I’d never gotten around to having it fixed. A packet of flower seeds given to me long ago by someone I had loved, because he knew I’d rather have the seeds than the cut flowers. My first thesaurus and a leather bound book of Shakespeare. 19 years of birthday cards from my girls, starting out with fingerprints in pink and purple ink, followed by wobbly printing, maturing to creative artistic endeavors. Love letters tied with ribbons. A strangely charming bowl shaped like a dinosaur, made by my daughter. Rocks and sand and geological oddities we’d picked up on various vacations in various places.

Of course, I packed items of monetary value too – my wedding ring, some gold jewelry, some small antiques, and some silver coins. But the truly priceless items were in that first box of memories so strong that just touching the items was like reliving my life by osmosis.

It was a half day of school so my daughter was finished in just a couple of hours. Despite the reassuring reports online, I was too nervous to leave our pets at the house.  I corralled two angry cats into carriers and put them in the back of the SUV, along with our 3-day bags and my box of memories.  The dog, always happy to go for a ride, jumped in and looked hopeful that she’d be allowed to ride shotgun. (As usual, she was banished to the back.)

We made a quick pick-up, dropped off my daughter’s carpool buddy, and got home. The dog is always amiable and loves getting home just as much as she loves leaving it in the first place. The cats were less than pleased, and we released the disgruntled felines into the house.  They shook themselves, glared at us, and began to groom their ruffled coats after their vehicular ordeal.

I explained to Rosie that she needed to gather up her most precious belongings.  Like me, she grabbed photos, but she also carefully packed some things that had belonged to her dad, who had suddenly passed away a few years ago. The things that were dear to her was his letterman’s jacket from high school, studded with bars and patches boasting of his athletic ability. She brought a hoodie that had been her dad’s, gigantic on her with the sleeves going far past the tips of her fingers. She packed a jewelry box full of precious bits and pieces – gifts that had earned their way into the box by virtue of either the giver or the monetary value or just because they caught her eye and made her happy. She has moved many times, and notes and photos from distant friends also made the cut.

Once these vital items had been ensconced in the vehicle, we packed some more clothing – a full two weeks’ worth of everything from socks to undies to dress clothes to casual attire. Those suitcases went into the vehicle atop the boxes that contained our memories.

And then, we waited.

Time takes on a different feel when you are waiting for disaster to strike. It crawls, pausing to explore horrific scenarios. It wanders and climbs, picking its way through imagined pitfalls. We found ourselves either wanting news that a miraculous rain had fallen from the sky, extinguishing the giant inferno, or the call to evacuate with no further ado. While we’d prefer the former, the latter would suffice because waiting…is…excruciating.

I repeatedly found myself refreshing the fire information websites, even though I had signed up for the local reverse 911 system in order to be alerted immediately should the need arise to evacuate. Finally, I began watching a movie on Netflix and promptly fell asleep, only to dream strange, horrible nightmares that, oddly, had nothing to do with a stealthily approaching fire creeping up the side of the canyon while we slept.

king fire 50
Calfire photo taken 6 miles from our home

We made it through the night unscathed, and the next.  Two more alerts arrived that our area could potentially be faced with evacuation, as the wind picked up and embers flew. Storms circled overhead, but instead of blessing us with rain, we only got lightning – terrifying under these conditions, because it could set off a whole new fire. Sixteen cloud-to-ground strikes, according to the radars, the last thing we needed.

The alerts that the fire was licking at our side of the canyon now failed to trigger even the slightest surge of adrenaline. It was like every bit of it had been drained from my body. It felt like I had exhausted any potential for worry. I thought, “Whatever. I can’t get any more ready than I already am,” and went to sleep with my phone next to my ear, in case the call came that night.

We were hesitant to go too far from home, in the event that the flames got past the firemen.  We wanted to be home and ready to load up our family pets. We didn’t want to carry all of our important belongings around in the vehicle, because the looting had already begun. Disaster always brings out the dregs of society, who feed on fear and prey upon those who have lost the most. Vultures were pillaging from evacuated homes and breaking into loaded vehicles at homes that were pending evacuation. Our belongings remained with us indoors, and looters, aided and abetted by the wildfire, became another threat to watch for.

Nine days after the fire began, the inferno still raged. Photos that looked like vacation pictures from hell popped up all over Facebook and local websites. Everyone tried to continue with life as normal, but when there is an 87,000 acre threat 3 miles from your door, you’re just going through the motions of your everyday routine.

We kept everything packed and neatly stacked by the door.  Stress was a low-level hum throughout my body. Have you ever spent the night in the room with a mosquito? The annoying buzz is constant – not loud, not even audible if there are enough other things going on, like music or the television. But the moment things become still and dark, and there’s no other stimuli, it’s the only thing you can hear and  you begin to seriously consider whether that tiny little bug making that tiny little sound could actually drive you insane.

That’s what it feels like to spend more than a week on the edge of a massive disaster zone – constant, quiet stress that you might at any moment be called into action in order to save your family, your pets, your neighbors.

And then the fire jumped the canyon.

I got up that morning, and to my delight, it was crisp, clear and didn’t smell as potently of disaster as it had on previous mornings. I dove into my work with renewed energy, until I heard helicopters and planes circling overhead. I looked outside and at one point saw 7 vehicles in the air from my front porch. It reminded me of the invasion scene from Red Dawn, but I knew the invader was fire, and that these pilots were flying overhead to defend us. A pillar of smoke – a new one – looked much closer to us, billowing up like one of those attention-getting balloons that advertise a sale on used cars or new sofas, dancing maniacally as the wind picked up.

Fire trucks barreled down our road, sirens singing a warning. Still, we waited, as dozens of engines were dispatched to make a final stand between our charming little town and the fire which engulfed everything we could see beyond the next ridge. They won this battle, but the war continued.

***

On day 11, someone asked me the very reasonable question of why we waited. Why, she wondered, didn’t we just evacuate?  Wouldn’t it be less worrisome to watch from afar, in a place where our safety was cushioned by miles?

Not really.

First, when you’re away from home, you constantly wonder what’s going on AT home. While I am well aware there’s nothing we could do if the wildfire escaped its barriers and bore down on our home, until that point, I saw no reason to leave. I trusted that the firefighters would warn us as soon as we were at risk and that they’d err on the side of caution.  The fire was now 93,000 acres, bigger than the city of Atlanta, and not one human life had been lost.

Secondly, we have several pets. If we needed to evacuate, we had a place to go. Dear friends had invited us and all of our animals to come and stay with them. We didn’t want to impose like that unless we had no choice.

Third – and this is something many people don’t think about – evacuation is expensive. Best case scenario, like us, you have friends or family with whom you can stay. But in many cases, people stay at shelters or hotels.  Insurance may or may not reimburse you for your expenses, but either way, you have to put out the money first. Costs like hotel bills, laundry expenses, and dining out can add up very quickly, and if you don’t have a healthy emergency fund, it can cause serious financial hardship.

***

The previous night had brought billowing smoke, so strong I awoke from the smell of it through closed windows. I went out on the porch in my pajamas and I could see the soft orange of fire, glowing in the distance. The firefighters had evacuated people somewhat closer to our house and were spending the night doing a controlled “backburn”.

calfire
Calfire photo of back-burn operation

They do this in order to clear out anything the fire could use as fuel. So around the perimeter of the fire, they light other fires, carefully controlled, to rid the area of brush and trees. This is how they contain a fire as huge and out of control as this one – they create an area around it with nothing to feed it, thus limiting its ability to spread. This is usually done at night, since nighttime air generally has more humidity and is cooler. The weather conditions have to be right, and there has to be enough distance between the wildfire and homes, for this to work.  There is a high risk to this, because there is potential for the small deliberate fire to ally itself with the monster fire. We were told that this is usually a last stand, undertaken when other efforts have failed and there is little more to lose.

After a restless sleep, we awoke to the incredible news that the fire was now 38% contained, a giant leap over the previous day’s report of 10%. The backburn had worked, and the containment line held strong.

***

As long as 92,000 acres are on fire, we can’t consider ourselves safe, regardless of containment percentages and firelines. However, we seem to be out of imminent danger.

Our bags will remain packed and waiting at the door. We’ll continue to be vigilant until the fire is completely extinguished, but today, we can breathe a small sigh of relief. This week on the edge of a disaster reinforced why we prepare: because one random act can have far-reaching consequences, and preparation is the key to a calm, effective, and potentially life-saving response.

***

7,691 men and women from all over the country have put their lives on the line to battle this fire – a fire that began with a single act of arson by a jilted lover.  You can learn more by searching for “King Fire” or  by going HERE.

Without these first responders, our homes would most certainly be gone and the fire, unchecked, would have consumed even more than it already has. I’m rarely speechless, but there are no words grand enough to express our gratitude. I’m humbled by what these people willingly do, knowing far better than we do the risks of volunteering to enter an inferno. (You can learn more about their training HERE.)

Thank you.

backburn
Calfire heroes defending a home and outbuildings.

Resources

The Prepper’s Blueprint: The Step-By-Step Guide To Help You Through Any Disaster

Fire in the Forest: Forest Service Fire Fighters

I Love Firefighters Mug for Coffee

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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26 Responses

  1. I sure can relate to what you are experiencing Daisy. It sounds like you must live not too far from me and I’m sure we are still getting smoke from your area. We were advised to and did evacuate from a fire that burned 500,000 acreas several years ago very near us. About a month ago we had a fire less than 2 miles behind us. We packed up and were ready to go. The heavy winds that had been a daily occurance completely stopped for two days and that saved us. The fire was coming our way. Now, there is another fire burning. It’s not a threat to us but our friend’s, yes. Hopefully you are receiving the rain that we are today. What a blessing much needed rain is!! May the good Lord use it to put your fire and all others completely out.

    1. Thank you for your good wishes, Joni. 🙂 Unfortunately, there’s not a cloud in the sky on our end of the fire. The wind is picking up, which is always cause for extra vigilance. We won’t be unpacking until it’s totally out.

      ~ D

  2. This article hit home, HARD, and brought back some things from years ago that I probably should have dealt with at the time, but figured that if it all turned out well, no harm-no foul. We had 80 MPH sustained winds for a number of hours out in the Great Plains. Two electrical wires touched and started a wildfire. A few trees, but mainly tall, dead, grass as is usual in late September. The call went out to all local fire departments to help, and as the fire was in the jurisdiction of our district, I was one of the first to go. (These are all volunteers, so many had to leave work early if possible, and others had to wait until their work day was over) Without a second thought, I went directly to the station, and left on a truck with another firefighter to go do our part. My wife and three sons, the youngest still in diapers, were home and it was supposed that they were safe. Unbeknownst to me, and while I am out doing what was necessary to fight the fire, the evacuation order came for my family to leave. My wife had to pack up the boys, and whatever else she could put in the vehicle and drive to my Aunt’s about 15 miles away and out of danger. Luckily our house was spared, but in the days before cell phones finding her, and conversely, her finding me, was difficult. My fire truck lost a transmission and I was “stranded” in an evacuated town for a few hours. I eventually found a ride home after the weather changed and the fire was 100% controlled. However, no electricity, and no idea where my family was. This and other events that occurred at this house is what started me on my prepping journey over 30 years ago. My wife and I were so happy that we escaped this particular disaster that we never did talk about what we went through individually. This story brought that all home.
    As an aside, my wife and I drove through, and spent one night, in the area of the King fire last June. I completely understand the topography and what fire could do there. I wish you and your daughter only the best, and as a prepper you are in the best position in these situations. Good Luck and God Bless your home and all in it.

  3. What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger isn’t true with CO exposure. The accumulated affects of a week in the proximity of a forest fire doesn’t improve anyone’s health. It can take months to recover from CO exposure.

  4. Holy cow Daisy, I had no idea that you lived close to my old area of Swansboro! (Somehow, I thought that you were in Oregon.) I still regret selling my home there. Nonetheless, Swansboro has been evacuated and the fire fighters are doing backburns at the airport to hopefully, hold off losing homes. Living in the Sierras gives a whole new meaning to prepping. Flooding can be a problem from the first rain in late Autumn through early spring; the winter brings freezing pipes, ice on the roads, and plenty of snow; and ironically, as soon as summer heats up, there is always a fire threat. When a fire gets this huge, it can easily burn even green areas that are watered. (The fire dries out vegetation and the hot air sucks out the moisture.) One thing that might be beneficial-it gives me peace of mind-is to buy a popup camper. They are light, so a small car can pull them: it has room for you, your daughter, and the pets: and because they travel flat, you have no sway or wind problems. I would feel perfectly safe in one in a neighbor/friends/family member’s yard. It’s not a plush motorcoach but it is useful, easy to haul, and compact in the garage or shed. If you have a small bar b cue, you are set to cook. Will keep you in my prayers!

  5. So glad to hear that you are safe Daisy! We had this experience back in 2012 when a fast moving grass fire was moving our way and we were on pre-evacuation notice to be ready to leave. 30 minutes is not a lot of time to decide what you needed, or what you wanted to take. Plus you had kids, pets and other major concerns as well. I had neighbors that had pets in their homes and were at work .. and we were worried about what to do about this, as there would be no way for their owners to make it back in time to evacuate them.
    Praise God we had a lot of other fire fighting equipment in the state due to other wild fires, and they got it out, literally right across the road from us.
    Made me think how important some things become to you when you are given a small time to decide it.

    Stay safe and prayers for you and yours! HUGS!

  6. What a great rain we have had up here today Daisy. There is no doubt, it will help. My wife talked with some Cal Fire crews today as they took a break at Raleys, picking up odds and ends and enjoying a cup of coffee. They are very thankful for the rain and also….so very thankful for our wonderful community that has been so supportive of our neighbors and fire fighters.

    Though we live a “few miles” South of you, the King fire has not impacted us terribly due to the prevailing winds, other than a few insanely smokey days. For us, the Sand Fire put us in the same situation you have been in. We were packed and ready to go, which was an interesting and educational process of prioritization. From our deck, we watched in horror as flames shot up hundreds of feet high across our ridge as tree stands became roman candles. Evacuations notices came for most of our friends but thankfully, the wind shifted and we were spared the loss of property and all of our hard work. Like you,it was a stressful time but there were some good lessons learned and we are better prepared as a result. In any type of situation, we simply hope to be able to ride through any trouble at home as opposed to becoming a refugee.

    Stay safe over there!
    Derek

  7. Of course, feeling bad for the tragedy people have to endure, I’ve always been thankful in a weird way for these “test runs.” We lived through the fires in San Diego in 2003. People evacuating ran out of gas and long columns of people got out of their cars and just trudged along the highway after it had been closed. Once at the evacuation center at the local high school, they broke into the kitchens- after only four hours without food! The local hospital had to evacuate there as well and they were out of things as basic as insulin and motrin. We were stuck in our little town for 10 days without power…the highway being open only sporadically. It was a four hour drive to get gasoline. Our house was the only one in the neighborhood with lights and news thanks to our stores…we learned a lot of lessons and have been applying them since….

  8. Hopefully the fire will be fully under control soon so everyone can relax & put their life back together. Those who lost homes our prayers are for you. It will take awhile to recover. I know. Daisy I’m so glad it didn’t get as far as your home. The apprehension must have been awful.

  9. I see no smoke today! We are 15 miles from the King fire. The Sand fire was the one that came within a quarter mile of our place. Talk about scary! Anyhow, am so glad to hear you and yours are safe and sound. Fred

  10. Thank you Daisy for finding time to write. You inspire courage in those of us overwhelmed. Don’t be overwhelmed. Be ready.

  11. Fireproof the home site. We ALL live in “fire prone areas”. I’m lucky that I live in a RURAL with a couple acres under MY control.

    First thing I did was to CUT down EVERY landscape bush and EVERY TREE within 75-100 feet of my dwelling. Keep the grass cut down and rake away all the “tinder”.
    (Every bush, shrub and tree WILL become an inferno when it catches on fire and the heat will bake your home until it bursts into flames.)

    I updated my ROOF,, got RID of anything flammable (I installed a SHEET METAL steel roof!!!)
    P.S. These sheet steel roofs have a normal life span of 50-75 years. AND, you can get up there and PAINT them with a new coat of paint every 10 or 20 years and make it last more than a 100 years. Make sure to get the white (or light colored) baked enamel color,, because the bare galvanized zinc panels,,will start to rust after just 15-20 years. If you’ve only got the bare tin roofs,, then get a coat of exterior house paint on it before it starts to rust.

    I don’t care if the metal roofing costs even 100% more money to install. The price for “shingle roofs” doubles every 10 or 20 years, and those shingle roofs only survive for 20 or 30 years AND they are NOT any good during a fire. Pay NOW for the sheet steel roof and you (and your kids)will be OLD and dead before your home ever needs a new roof. And they look really nice. Some parts of the country,, you see metal roofs on most of the houses.

    This house is older, (manufactured-mobile home), and still has the ALUMINUM SIDING and I am NOT removing it and will NOT cover it with anything that melts or burns. (Yes, I know that aluminum will burn, but it’s a lot more fire resistant than wood or plastic.)

    My wife was furious that I cut down the beautiful OAK trees that stood just 20-40 feet from our home. They gave some nice shade on hot days. But in the event of a local fire, those trees will catch fire and destroy our house, and how would THAT make her feel?

    Get rid of WOODEN porch rails and replace them with IRON or brick structures. You could even build some short, decorative “brick divider walls” around parts of your home,, as a kind of “heat barrier” against the nearby forests that catch on fire. (a real “Smarty pants guy” might even install some brackets on those decorate “short walls” (I’m sure they have some architectural names for them).. put some brackets onto the wall,, so you can slide some metal fence pipe-rails into the brackets and then you can attach some sections of corrugated steel on TOP of your short walls to increase the height during fires,, to prevent so much “radiant heat” from coming at your house.

    Not much you can do when all the houses are just 20-50 feet next to each other, but you can build with FIRE RESISTANT materials!

    Another great idea.. is to install METAL screen door screening up under all your over-hangs (eaves) etc, serves the purpose of preventing sparks, burning leaves and blowing embers from getting up under your overhangs and catching your roof on fire.

    Put metal screen door screen or some fire barrier around all your crawl spaces to prevent wind-blown fire debris from sliding under your porch, house, etc.
    The metal window screen under all your eaves, will also prevent bees, wasps and other bugs from colonizing those areas.

    I bought some “fire resistant” paint additives or fire resistant paint, and I used it to cover any wooden structures around the exterior of my home, I even painted the bottom 3Ft of the “power poles” on my property. (don’t want some little grass fire to start the utility poles on fire and lose electricity.)

    The paint was a bit expensive, but is rated for direct fire contact for 1 full hour. Amazing videos in the advertizements.
    My modest, cheap home is the only place I have, and so it’s “priceless” to me.

    I have a private well & septic tank. I bought a 1,200 gallon poly water tank ($700), set it up near my tool shed and filled it with water and put a 6HP portable water pump near it along with 200Ft of 1.5″ Fire Hose (from Ebay).

    If there is a local fire, I don’t want to rely totally on the local “fire boys” to be available. I want to have a “fighting chance” to save my own place. I also bought a 5 gallon supply of FIRE FIGHTING FOAM additive so I can spray my home with foam. It will make my 1200 gallons as effective as 5000 gallons and if the house stays foamy enough for 30 or 50 minutes,, it might be long enough to save the house. The “fire foam” was less than $200. They even sell “fire foam treatment” to spray onto your home for a few hundred bucks,,and it sticks to everything for a few hours or perhaps longer, and you can drive away. Come back in a few days, and rinse it off with the garden hose.

    In EVERY local fire event,, there will always be some “power poles” that burn down or fall down from the fire and heat and the electricity will be OFF. You cannot rely upon having electricity to operate your electric pumps. If there is a local fire at the location where YOUR CITY has the WATER Department pumps, then your entire city’s water system will NOT be working. This can also happen with the natural gas supply system AND the sewer system. (during an EMP, or other disaster, nuke plant, etc. ALL the city sewers, water and gas will NOT be working. Sewage will back up into EVERY basement. Every road will get flooded when all the storm drain pumps stop working. ALL the freeway underpasses will be filled with seven feet of water.

    During any large evacuation, all the roads will be grid-locked and NOBODY’s car will get better than 4 MPG in first gear driving slowly over lawns and on the sidewalks to get around the bumper to bumper traffic. If you thought you could “bug out” with one tank of gas, then you are an idiot. When all the roads are blocked with cars, you’re not going anywhere.
    Make sure you pack a BIKE (and spare bike tires, tubes, etc) inside your trunk. (they do make “foldable bikes”). During a grid lock, a bike is the only way to travel another 50 miles down the road, sidewalks, and around all the dead cars.

    Quick tip for your “riding lawn mowers”. I got tired of trying to keep the battery charged. So I bought a little 5 watt solar panel and installed it on the hood of the mower and wired it to the battery. Never have to charge the battery and now I don’t have to buy a new battery every year.

    I also had trouble with one of the front tires always going flat, and to put a tube in it would be $10 and extra work. SO I bought 2 cans of “expanding foam” spray insulation (for the house) and I used it to fill up my flat tire. (Even if I must drill a couple of holes in the rubber to get the “Straw” into it to insert the foam, it will still be OK for the next 5-10 years.) End of problem. Never goes flat anymore. (The rear tires are TOO big for this trick.)

    Anybody who says a fire hose, water pump, or water tank are too expensive, then how can you afford an ATV, a boat, a motorcycle, camper, deer rifle, the 2nd or 3rd car, SUV, or pickup? A new Big screen TV, or the big vacation? Skip a few of those things, and protect your home. You can’t live inside your ATV. Your deer rifle won’t stop a forest fire.
    (PS- Anybody who owns any guns or other very valuable things and does NOT own a 500 pound fire proof GUN SAFE is an idiot. A decent safe can be bought for about six hundred bucks. Same as a mid priced LCD TV or a typical shotgun, pistol or rifle.)

    But I “HATE” the safes that have ELECTRONIC keypads,, (because keypads are PLASTIC and they MELT before the fire even gets near to it.) I prefer the OLD fashioned, brass or steel COMBINATION lock. Don’t have to worry about anything electronic getting melted,, or some thief hitting it with a hammer and breaking the keypad.

    1. Thanks for all these great tips. We live about 25 miles from where the King fire started, and watched it’s progress with tense anticipation. Your tips are excellent and useful, as we live on 20 acres of oak and manzanita woodland. We just had a tree cutting crew spend a week here clearing trees, brush and weeds to improve our defensible space. One other thing we did was widen and pave our driveway to serve as a firebreak between one heavily forested area of our property and the house. It only protects one side, but it’s a start. I like your roofing ideas. I think it’s insane that I still see homes up here with wood shake roofs. Thanks for the good information.

  12. I also like the idea of installing some (metal) sprinkler heads on the house (NO plastic pipes, etc) and also having some way to pressurize it with my own water tanks, pump, etc. But as long as I have “city power” I’d be using THEIR power. But a “dual feeder” system, will need some shut off valves to prevent your pump from “back feeding” the city water pipes, etc.

    In a pinch, if your city electric are still working, you MIGHT get lucky with a couple of lawn sprinklers nailed to the roof.. or use some bricks to hold a sprinkler into position. But when the fire gets closer and destroys the utility poles,, you ain’t gonna have any power to run anything. You’d better pray that the city water pump system didn’t burn or lose power.
    PS- garden hoses are made of PLASTIC and will MELT from the heat. Perhaps you could run the hose INSIDE the house,,and OUT from a TOP window onto the roof,, you might get really lucky with this idea.

  13. I bought a 40ft steel “freight-shipping container” (for storage). It’s used,,but in very nice shape. They charged me about $2,500 for it (including delivery and hurricane “earth anchors”).
    It’s big enough to park my car & for my family to “evacuate in place” to ride out most any hurricane along the Gulf Coast, etc.

    HERE’s the FIRE-Prevention tip. I had it placed between my little wooded lot & the place where my house and tool shed is located. Soooo,,, it my woods catch on fire, the metal freight container will defect most of the radiant heat of the burning forest that would bake my house to death.

    Where can you buy a steel, fireproof, 2-car garage for less than $3,000? Shut the big doors, and put some large pad-locks on them and NO “crack head” will enter. (Crack-heads/ meth-heads don’t carry “bolt cutters” with them, BECAUSE if a dope addict had a nice pair of bolt cutters,, the addict would swap the tools for another bit of dope.)

    As for turning my screened porch into a winter “Green house”,, I’m going to order a big piece of Swimming Pool Solar Cover (Clear Bubble wrap) to use as a greenhouse sheeting. It’s 16 Mils thick & has a 7yr warranty and insulates a lot better than single sheet plastic.
    I mention this, because if we are faced with EBOLA quarantine, I will be able to grow a big garden and grow some veggies all through the winter in my “pool-cover-bubble wrap” greenhouse.

  14. I bought a 40ft steel “freight-shipping container” (for storage). It’s used,,but in very nice shape. They charged me about $2,500 for it (including delivery and hurricane “earth anchors”).
    It’s big enough to park my car & for my family to “evacuate in place” to ride out most any hurricane along the Gulf Coast, etc.

    HERE’s the FIRE-Prevention tip. I had it placed between my little wooded lot & the place where my house and tool shed is located. Soooo,,, if my woods catch on fire, the metal freight container will defect most of the radiant heat of the burning forest that would bake my house to death.

    Where can you buy a steel, fireproof, 2-car garage for less than $3,000? Shut the big doors, and put some large pad-locks on them and NO “crack head” will enter. (Crack-heads/ meth-heads don’t carry “bolt cutters” with them, BECAUSE if a dope addict had a nice pair of bolt cutters,, the addict would swap the tools for another bit of dope.)

    As for turning my screened porch into a winter “Green house”,, I’m going to order a big piece of Swimming Pool Solar Cover (Clear Bubble wrap) to use as a greenhouse sheeting. It’s 16 Mils thick & has a 7yr warranty and insulates a lot better than single sheet plastic.
    I mention this, because if we are faced with EBOLA quarantine, I will be able to grow a big garden and grow some veggies all through the winter in my “pool-cover-bubble wrap” greenhouse.

    1. Hi “Craig SomeGreatTipsHere.”, I know it’s been several years so I don’t know if you will ever read this but you do need to know about a BIG FAULT with the shipping containers. I thought things would be fine also…I had 6 containers. 2 were 40ft and 4 were 20 feet each. Well, I went through the So.Cal. 2007 Witch fire. I evacuated with my son and some pets while my hubby stayed. He had his own truck to get out if it turned real bad. When my son and I came back, after the fire DID go through our place, I found out that the “steel” shipping containers were NOT that great. No fire men came around and there were no water drops. All my hubby had was a bucket and our big water tanks. He would go around and stop any little fires with the water and a shovel. He saved our house that way. He discovered that embers started going under the shipping containers. He carefully opened one and found that the inside stuff was BURNING!!!!!! He tried to do the best he could “by himself” and did save three of the containers. The insurance covered the total loss of one of the containers with only some things melting or getting that smoke smell in the other two. Look at the shipping container FLOORS…they are WOOD. The only metal in the floor are a couple of cross beams. SO please be forewarned “Craig SomeGreatTipsHere” and anyone else thinking to get a shipping container. Know all the facts! I moved to some open land OUT of state and right now have 3 more shipping containers so I do still like them but wont forget about the floors.

  15. I really enjoyed this article and the one written after the crisis was over, BUT I can’t manage much sympathy for southern Californians. Every year the same story- a wildfire in SoCal, or an earthquake. It isn’t even news any more than a murder in Detroit or a NJ politician getting caught in a corruption sting. I have an old silver maple along side my house. It has had a huge gash in the side for decades and it is a variety known for splitting. When it topples and rips the electric service off my house and puts a hole in the roof should you feel sorry for me? I like the shade and am willing to live with the danger. Besides, if I take it down it will cost me a couple thousand and if I leave it up to an act of God my homeowners ins. will pay. The point is you enjoy 300 days of sunshine and mild winters in SoCal, but you KNOW fires and quakes come with the package, along with bad gun laws and other demographic time bombs and drought. Perhaps you should consider moving, Daisy. I sure am!
    -Dave in northern New Jersey

    1. Actually, I’m in North California, Dave. 🙂 With mountains and trees and rivers. It’s very different terrain than the SoCal that you are thinking of.

      But, I do see your point. Sometimes we accept dangers to be close to loved ones or a work opportunity.I was aware of the issues before I moved here, so I did feel relatively prepared for them.

      Thanks for reading – I’m very glad you enjoyed the articles.

      Daisy

  16. Thanks for sharing your experience, Daisy.
    Most of us don’t have to deal with fires like you had there.
    Being well prepared for whatever can happen enabled you to be more clear thinking, have less stress and be able to act when and if you needed to.
    Lots of things to learn from what you shared about being wisely prepared. Whether it’s a fire, flood, a hurricane, blizzard or shtf, being prepared is way beyond vital!

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