Chief: Best to be ready to leave in wildfire
While the decision to evacuate in the face of a wildfire is up to individual residents, the decision to stay can endanger lives and structures.
In Nevada, only the governor can order a mandatory evacuation, something East Fork Chief Tod Carlini said has never happened during his career.
“It’s a stressful situation when you’re told to evacuate, especially when there’s smoke in the air and flames on the hill and you see nothing but vegetation between you and that fire,” he said. “Tack on a 20 mph wind and it will start amping you up, I don’t care who you are.”
Carlini spoke as part of a presentation on wildfire safety conducted at the Fish Springs Volunteer Fire Department on Saturday.
Around 40 residents turned out to hear the program sponsored by the Pine Nut Creek-Blue Bird Chapter of Nevada Fire Adapted Communities.
Carlini said residents should consider the five Ps when evacuating: people, pets, pills, photos and papers.
But a sixth P might be more important, preparation.
“When you have a fire bearing down on you and it’s time to evacuate, your organizational skills are either going to be there or they’re not, and when they’re not that’s when we have challenges.”
Carlini said Fish Springs has been through wildfires and floods over the past decade, and that residents have demonstrated their resilience time and time again.
But that same instinct to stand and protect a home could work against people in a fire.
“Those who live out here know we’ve had a series of fires on the east side of the Valley that we were very fortunate to keep up on the hill and keep out of the neighborhoods,” he said. “Some people are hesitant to leave. They want to defend their property, but there’s a hazard for you and there’s hazard for us.”
Because so much of the piñon juniper has burned in the Pine Nuts, the nature of fires in the mountains east of Carson Valley has changed, Carlini said.
“It’s all replaced with grass and light flashy fuels, so if we get another fire it’s going to propagate faster than it did in the past,” he said. “Long before evacuation seems likely, remember prepare and go. This is not the time you need to be planning your evacuation.”
Many of the neighborhoods near and in the Pine Nuts have limited routes to safety, so Carlini said it’s a good idea to plan out a route ahead of time.
He suggested having a contact outside of the area where family members can stay in contact if they get separated. Pets and livestock are also a consideration. One Fish Springs resident suggested using nontoxic spray paint to put a phone number on horses.
It’s also a good time to make sure there’s plenty of gas in the car.
“These are common sense things to try to collect yourself and try not to panic,” he said.
If there’s time he suggested closing windows, doors and blinds. Pull back curtains, and turn on all the interior and exterior lights.
“Put a note on the door that you’re gone, so that we know there’s no one there and don’t waste our time looking for someone,” he said.
He urged residents to sign up for Reverse 911 on their cellphones so they receive alerts from the county.
He reminded residents that while they can’t be required to evacuate, once they’re gone, they won’t be let back in until its deemed safe.