FIRE: Get Ready, Get Set, Go!

If your family has to be evacuated due to a brush fire, you may not have much warning. So be prepared!

The massive, fast-moving fires in Northern California that started on October 9 destroyed at least 6,000 structures and resulted in 40 deaths and hundreds missing as of October 15.

A brush fire in Orange County that started the same day destroyed 24 structures and forced residents from 5,000 homes in Anaheim Hills and Orange to evacuate.

The L.A. Times reported: “Bob Hill said his trip to the doctor’s office was cut short by a text message from city officials warning him of the fire Monday morning. He immediately contacted his wife. ‘Get out. Get the pictures and get out,’ he wrote in a frantic text.”

The wild fires in Northern California destroyed 6,000 structures.

According to firefighters, Hill’s response was the right one. CalFire recommends: “Leave as soon as evacuation is recommended by fire officials to avoid being caught in fire, smoke or road congestion.

“Don’t wait to be ordered by authorities to leave. Evacuating the area early also helps firefighters keep roads clear of congestion, and lets them move more freely to do their job. In an intense wildfire, they will not have time to knock on every door. If you are advised to leave, don’t hesitate!”

Major wildfires have raced through the hills north of Pacific Palisades on several occasions over the last century, but not since 1978, when flames destroyed 30 homes, the sanctuary at St. Matthew’s and part of the Mill Building on upper Bienveneda.

It is not a question of if there will be a brush fire in our area, it is a question of when, especially given the uninterrupted growth of brush in the Santa Monica Mountains over the past 23 years. The most recent destructive fires occurred in 1994 in Topanga and Malibu.

If you are asked to evacuate, take a pre-packed bag that may include will/trust documents, power of attorney, insurance policies, recent tax return, copies of birth/marriage certificates, Social Security cards, passports, list of prescriptions, emergency cash, safe-deposit keys, driver’s license, computer user names and passwords and checking and saving account numbers (and any other valuable documents that are not in your safe-deposit box).

In addition to important paperwork, your safe-deposit box should have inventory and photographs of valuable possessions for insurance purposes.

Make sure each family member has a sleeping bag and/or blankets and a change of clothing. Put your pets in carriers to make sure they are not frightened and run away.

(Interesting fact: The November 1961 Bel-Air fire started as a brush fire fanned by hot Santa Ana winds. More than 16,900 acres burned and 484 homes were destroyed. As a result of the fire, Los Angeles passed laws that included the banning of wood-shingle roofs in new construction and implementation of a stringent brush clearance policy.)

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