President's Column
Fire and Forest - Our Spring Gathering
(From The Town Crier - May 2011)

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We had our big fire season preparation meeting this past Saturday, April 30, at the Idyllwild School. Teams and engines from Idyllwild Fire, the US Forest Service, and Calfire gathered in the parking lot, along with local contractors and vendors. Forest Service and Idyllwild Fire teams performed a hose lay up and around the ball field, to the great delight of a class of small children observing. Afterwards, adventurous children got to try on a fire backpack and ask questions of the firefighters, who were great with the kids.

When that was done Idyllwild Fire performed an "auto extrication" on an old vehicle. Demonstrating a rescue, they pulled an injured person (dummy) from the vehicle after they cut off the top of the car. I had never seen this done, and I and most people there were fascinated to see how the team worked to achieve the rescue.

At noon we held our information session inside the gym. The uniformed personnel who spoke, Chief Norm Walker of IFPD, Chief Dan Felix of USFS, Chief Bill Weiser of Calfire, and Sergeant Robert Duckett of the Riverside Sheriff's Office, spent their time explaining various aspects of "Ready, Set, Go!", which encapsulates advice to residents threatened by fire. Fire Safe project managers Pat Boss and Mike Kellner explained how to make one's house safer by vegetation clearance, and by improving resistance to fire embers.

Most of the information shared is available at CalFire's website, readyforwildfire.org, and from any of our local fire agencies, as well as the Fire Safe Council. There is too much to put into this column, so I will just highlight three key points.

First, when we are asked to evacuate, we should go. Though this seems like commonsense, some people refuse to leave, or leave too late. Some think they can fight the fire; others just don't like leaving their home. To show why this thinking is not sound, Chief Walker played a video clip from the Esperanza Fire. Though it was daytime, the incredibly thick smoke made it seem like night, with the only light being from the fire and the swirling embers. It was clear it was an extremely dangerous environment, even for those with special training and equipment. When told to go, the wise thing for all concerned is for residents to go. The Sheriff's Office will guide the evacuation, so all we need to do is follow their direction on the roads.

Second, make a plan. Every home should have a disaster plan. CalFire's Bill Weiser spoke of the need to know beforehand where you are going to go and what you are going to take with you. Some of the obvious things to bring include prescription medicines, glasses, computers, and personal records. When we leave our houses, we should leave the windows shut, the lights on, and the doors unlocked.


Third, get the house ready to resist fire. We can reduce fuel around the house and "harden" the house, or make it more resistant to embers. This last point has become particularly important since research shows that most houses destroyed in fires are not burned by the main front of the fire but are burned by embers which slowly ignite the house after the main front has passed. If you would like to learn more about this or any other point, call the MCFSC office at 659-6208.