Editorial: Taking steps against fire in our own backyards

September 10, 2011

Fire safety versus mosquito prevention?

What seems like a summertime quandary ought not be one.

Fire danger is high, and residents are reminded to do their part to prevent fire, at home or elsewhere.

The mosquito conundrum emerged among two sets of precautions issued in the past week.

Fire prevention experts suggest a variety of precautions, including 100-foot buffer zones around structures, smoke detectors and outdoor water storage such as pond, pool or well.

Meanwhile, the Oregon Health Authority has issued precautions following the discovery in Malheur County of the state's first case of the West Nile virus, which is mosquito-borne. The precautions include avoiding evening outdoor activity, securing screens and doing away with standing water - breeding ground for mosquitoes.

We do not discount the need for vigilance regarding West Nile, but Malheur County is a long ways off, and the OHA avers that the risk of catching the virus is low.

Also, the fires feel a bit closer.

So it's probably wise to side with the idea of keeping the kids' pool and other vessels filled with water. (But you could check your bird baths, clogged gutters and old tires, which don't do much good for fighting fires yet are prime spots for the bugs.)

Fire prevention experts have told us for years that, no matter what the conditions are, it's a good idea to create at least a 30-foot "safety zone" around your home, keeping it as free of vegetation as possible. If you know your home is in an active fire zone, a 100-foot buffer zone with reduced vegetation is recommended.

The need for fire precautions, if not our awareness of it, is as high as it has ever been. Temperatures remain high and the Dollar Lake Fire stubbornly holds forth in our collective backyard.

Whether we are in town or in the country, we are all part of the solution to prevent fire or do what we can to reduce its damage. Any property with vegetation on it, or adjacent to it, needs to be examined for ways in which fire risk can be minimized.

In another way, we are all affected: we all breathe the air. If you develop symptoms suggesting lung or heart problems, consult a health care provider as soon as possible.

County Health and Department of Environmental Quality also recommend:

Avoid strenuous outdoor activity

Be aware of smoke concentrations in your area and avoid the places with highest concentrations

Avoid smoke either by leaving the area or protecting yourself by staying indoors, closing all windows and doors and using a filter in your heating/cooling system

Finally, while trail and backwoods access is limited near Mount Hood, if you are planning an outing, remember that that the Oregon Department of Forestry has raised the Industrial Fire Precaution Level to 3. As a result, all trails on Hood River County property are closed to motorized use. Unlicensed motorized vehicles are allowed to use improved (graveled) forest roads only.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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