Kaye’s Corner: Wildfire evacuation

MEEKER | Sadly, wildfire season is back. It’s only early April and Rio Blanco County has a serious fire. Jay and I saw it erupt while on a leisurely drive upriver on Sunday afternoon. The smoke spread rapidly and as we returned to town, we could see the fires spreading up the hillside in leaps and bounds.

By the next day, it had erupted to some 800 acres in just a few hours. Others will report the status of this situation, so my article is to remind you and me to be ready to evacuate in case of wildfire.

Despite a well-intentioned effort to develop a fire evacuation plan, I didn’t finish it. Now I must! I am reminded yet again that wildfire season is upon us and we must all be prepared.

If you wait until the last minute, you may forget essential belongings, make random decisions, or panic. Keep in mind that even if the fire is not at your doorstep, the smoke inhalation may be overwhelming or the threat of approaching fire to your property increase.

As the Boy Scouts say, “Be Prepared.” That means several things in case of wildfire evacuation. Have a plan for these essentials.

Coordinate your family members so you can connect or meet up at a designated place. Also consider a remote contact person to support your communications in case your power goes out or cell phone service gets overwhelmed.

Pet safety and removal may be essential. How will you get your cats, dogs, horses, and pets to a safe place?

Prescriptions and basic foods need to go with you too. In the west, it is always important to stay hydrated so create a stash of your essential travel drinks and snacks. Folks dependent on their meds must evacuate with them.

Electronic devices including phone, chargers, readers, chargers, laptops, chargers should all get packed. Get the theme here? Your digital items won’t serve you long without recharging, so grab all those cables and cords. Our devices may be our lifelines to remaining in communication, so keep them charged and at the ready.

Clothing means packing at least a few changes of clothes so you will feel somewhat fresh and wearing your own clothes. I know clothing is not essential. Still, if you’re freezing in our cool Colorado nights, you will appreciate a jacket. Pack your kids’ lovies and one favorite toy so they will have some comfort while life pends.

Essential papers include items such as birth certificates, social security cards, and COVID vaccination cards plus similar documents. These can be scanned, loaded on a thumb drive, and ready to leave with just one small item containing your essential documents.

Treasured items are all your family photographs, memorabilia of days gone by, art, and anything that tugs at your heartstrings. It is better to decide while you’re sane, not at the last minute. If you consider this tough topic in advance, it will be easier to leave with the right things.

Where will you go? Consider your evacuation destination. Do you have friends or family you could stay with? Take all your vehicles if you can. Are they full of gas? Can you reside in your RV, travel trailer, or tent? Often, in mass evacuations it is difficult to find basics like gas and food. Don’t assume you can find essentials in route as everyone else will be in the same mess. Same with lodging.

Money considerations include it may be wise to keep some cash on hand for evacuations. ATM’s get overwhelmed in crisis. Take your wallet, credit cards, and driver’s license.

Ask for help. If you need assistance loading out your stuff, securing your animals, finding temporary housing, acquiring food, or whatever, please don’t hesitate to ask … neighbors, law enforcement, religious and social services, helpful citizens …just ask. Meeker is a caring community and we all know wildfires could happen to any of us.

For all of us, it is easy to assume “it won’t happen to us.” Yet, in western Colorado, I feel we must remain vigilant and not expect our valiant firefighters to keep safe us every time. Please be prepared to evacuate if wildfires invade.

Wildfire season, here again already!

By KAYE SULLIVAN – Special to the Herald Times

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