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Fire Prevention In The Outdoors

As Smokey Bear says:

Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires!


Give as much detail about the fire's location as you can, including mile marker or red property numbers and landmarks. Stay on the telephone until the dispatcher tells you to hang up.
We like detail: "A caller reported smoke on the south side of the Canyon visible from in front of house number XXX. It is a sporadic dark column, and appears to be well up on the side of the ridge. No flames are visible. The caller will be waiting in front of house number XXX in order to point out what they saw."
To help you get oriented in the canyon: The creek side is South, the opposite side is North. Towards Angel Fire ('up canyon') is East. Towards Taos ('down canyon') is West.


By: Louis Zamora

Wildland Fires: Preparedness fact sheet

The threat of wildfires for people living in Taos Canyon is real and can strike without warning because of the drought conditions. People can be forced to evacuate or worse, endure confinement in your home, if not prepared. People have acquired secluded homes surrounded by forests, mountains and meadows, which have come to be known in firefighter lingo as the wildland/urban interface. If you want to protect your home, forest and community, it is your responsibility, as the homeowner, to take action. Take the time to prepare for disaster by reviewing these five easy steps and practice self-reliance by taking action on your own using the fact sheet:

1. Discuss the disasters happening in your area, with your family, neighbors and community.
2. Train all family members. Take first aid classes. Learn how to use a fire extinguisher and how to shut off utilities. Don't take a chance that the only person who knows first aid or how to turn off the gas will be at home when needed.
3. Assemble supplies including food, water and emergency tools. A list is enclosed and involves your family and neighbors.
4. Identify emergency name and numbers, (family, fire department etc.) make copies for each member of your family to keep.
5. Maintain your readiness. Review your plan at least once a year to determine what training, equipment and supplies are needed.

Remember, do not misconstrue that wildland/urban interface protection is solely a Forest Service concern. Contrary to these expectations, the Forest Service has neither the resources for effectively protecting highly ignitable homes during severe wildfires, nor the authority to reduce home ignitability. Instead, homeowners need to take the responsibility for assuring adequately low home ingnitability and take steps to reduce home fire loss potential.

Mitigation - to work together to prevent an emergency, reduce the chance of an emergency happening, or lessen the damaging effects of unavoidable emergencies.
Here are some things you need to know before, during, and after a wildfire and take action on:


Checklist to help you protect your Family:
Create a disaster plan, know your area, property contours and boundaries.
Create an emergency route to take and know where to go if wildfires threaten your area.
Plan several escape routes away from your home - by car and by foot.
Pick two meeting Places:
1. A place a safe distances from your home.
2. A place outside Taos Canyon in case you can't return home.
Choose an out-of-state family/friend as a "check-in-contact" for everyone to call.
Tell your contact you are leaving and where you are going.
Post emergency telephone numbers by every phone.
Develop an emergency communication plan. In case family members are separated from one another during a wildland fire (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children at home, school, etc.), have a plan for getting back together.
Show responsible family members how and when to shut off water, gas and electricity at main switches.
Learn first aid and CPR.
Teach each family member how to use the fire extinguisher (ABC type) and show them where it's kept.
Keep protective clothing for every member of your family nearby.
Wear protective clothing in an emergency - sturdy shoes, cotton or woolen clothing, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves and a handkerchief to protect your face.
Put together a disaster supply kit -
1. First aid kit and manual
2. Emergency non-perishable food and water
3. Flashlight with extra batteries
4. Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries
5. Extra clothing and sturdy shoes
6. Non-electric can opener
7. Cash and credit cards
8. Important personal documents
9. Sanitation supplies.
10. Special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members.
11. An extra pair of eyeglasses.
Store these supplies in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers such as backpacks, dufflebags or trash containers.
Know where your disaster kit is located, if you are evacuated.
Confine pets to one room. Plan for their care if you must evacuate and keep them under control conditions during evacuation.
Arrange for temporary housing outside the threatened area.
If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
Practice fire escape and evacuation plans.
Teach children about fire safety. Keep matches and lighters out of their reach.
Talk to your neighbors about wildfire safety. Plan how the neighborhood could work together, for a safe Taos Canyon. Make a list of your neighbors' skills such as medial and technical. Consider how you could help neighbors who have special needs such as elderly or disabled person. Make plans to take care of children who may be on their own if parents can't get home.

Checklist to protect your home:
Have chimney inspected and cleaned annually by a certified specialist.
Insulate chimneys and place spark arresters on top.
Extend the chimney at least three feet above the roof.
Remove branches hanging above and around the chimney.
Provide at least two ground level doors for safety exits and at least two means of escape -either a door or window - in each room, so that everyone has a way out.
Make an occasional inspection of your home, looking for deterioration such as breaks and spaces between roof tiles, warping wood, or cracks and crevices in the structure.
Also, inspect your property, clearing dead wood and dense vegetation from at least 30 feet from your house, and moving firewood away from the house or attachments, like fences or decks.
Install smoke alarms on every level of your home. Test them monthly and change the batteries at least once a year.
Never leave a fire--even a cigarette--burning unattended. Mark the entrance to your property with signs that are clearly visible.
Provide emergency vehicle access through roads and driveways at least 12 feet wide with adequate turnaround space.
Report hazardous conditions that could cause a wildfire.
Use fire-resistant and protective roofing and materials like stone, brick and metal to protect your home. Avoid using wood materials that offer the least fire protection.
Clear roofs and eaves of debris.
Cover all exterior vents, attics and eaves with metal mesh screens no larger than 6 millimeters.
Install multipane windows, tempered safety glass or fireproof shutters to protect large windows from radiant heat.
Use fire-resistant draperies for added window protection.
Keep on hand household items that can be used as fire tools: a rake, axe, handsaw or chainsaw, bucket and shovel, ladder and 100 foot garden hose that is long enough to reach any area of the home and other structures on the property.
Stonewalls can act as heat shields and deflect flames.
Swimming pools and patios can be a safety zone.
Prune all branches around the residence to a height of 8 to 10 feet. Keep trees adjacent to buildings free of dead or dying wood and moss.
Remove all dead limbs, needles, and debris from rain gutters.
Store combustible or flammable materials in approved safety containers and keep them away from the house.
Avoid open burning completely and especially during dry season.
Identify and maintain an adequate outside water source such as a small pond, cistern, well, swimming pool or hydrant.
Make sure water sources, such as hydrants and ponds, are accessible to the fire department.
Install freeze-proof exterior water outlets on at least two sides of the home and near other structures on the property. Install additional outlets at least 50 feet from the home.
Consider obtaining a portable gasoline powered pump/generator in case electrical power is cut off.
Keep all trees and shrub limbs trimmed so they don't come in contact with the wires.

Any structures attached to the house, such as decks, porches, fences, and outbuildings should be considered part of the house. These structures can act as fuses or fuel bridges, particularly if constructed from flammable materials. Therefore, consider the following:

If you wish to attach an all-wood fence to your home, use masonry or metal as a protective barrier between the fence and house.
Use non-flammable metal when constructing a trellis and cover with high-moisture, nonflammable vegetation.
Prevent combustible materials and debris from accumulating beneath patio deck or elevated porches; screen under or box in areas below ground line with wire mesh no larger than 1/8 of an inch.
Make sure an elevated wooden deck is not located at the top of a hill where it will be in direct line of a fire moving up slope; consider a terrace instead.

Constructing, renovating or adding consider the following:
Obtain local building codes and weed abatement ordinances for structures built near wooded areas.
Choose a firewise location.
Design and build a firewise structure.
Employ firewise landscaping and maintenance.
To select a firewise location, observe the following:
1. Slope of terrain;
2. Be sure to build on the most level portion of the land, since fire spreads rapidly, even on minor slopes.
Set your single-story structure at least 30 feet back from any ridge or cliff; increase distance if your home will be higher than one story.
In designing and building your firewise structure, remember that the primary goals are fuel and exposure reduction.
Use construction materials that are fire-resistant or non-combustible whenever possible.
For roof construction, consider using materials such as Class-A asphalt shingles, slate orclay tile, metal, cement and concrete products, or terra-cotta tiles.
Install electrical lines underground, if possible.
Avoid using wooden shakes and shingles for a roof.
Use only thick, tempered safety glass in large windows and sliding glass doors.
Constructing a fire-resistant sub-roof can add protection, as well.
On exterior wall cladding, fire resistive materials such as stucco or masonry are much better than vinyl, which can soften and melt.
Consider both size and materials for windows; smaller panes hold up better in their frames than larger ones; double pane glass and tempered glass are more effective than single pane glass; plastic skylights can melt.
Cover windows and skylights with non-flammable screening shutters.
To prevent sparks from entering your home through vents, cover exterior attic and under floor vents with wire mesh no larger than 1/8 of an inch;
make sure undereave and soffit vents are closer to the roof line than the wall;
and box in eaves, but provide adequate ventilation to prevent condensation.
Include a driveway that is wide enough - 12 feet wide with a vertical clearance of 15 feet and a slope that is less than 12 percent - to provide easy access for fire engines.
The driveway and access roads should be well maintained, clearly marked, and include ample turnaround space near the house.
Also consider access to water supply, if possible.

Checklist to Maintain a Defensible Space:
Follow these basic rules to create defensible space that works.
(Something to remember: 78% of the houses with a 30-ft. defensible space survives)
Landscape your property with fire-resistant plants and vegetation to prevent tire from spreading quickly.
Remove all dead plants, trees and shrubs from the site.
Reduce excess leaves, plant parts and Iow-hanging branches.
Replace dense flammable plants with fire-resistant plants.
Create a defensible space perimeter, be sure to leave a minimum of 30' around the house to accommodate fire equipment, if necessary.
Within the defensible space, take out the "ladder fuels" -- vegetation that serves as a link between grass and tree tops. It can carry fire to a structure or from a structure to vegetation.
Give yourself added protection with "fuel breaks" like driveways, gravel walkways, and lawns.
Beyond 30 feet, (300' from the house) remove dead wood, debris and low tree branches and keep vegetation trimmed and pruned.
Eliminate small trees and plants growing under trees. They allow ground fires to jump into tree crowns.
Space trees 30 feet apart and prune to a height of 8 to 10 feet.
Place shrubs at least 20 feet from any structures and prune regularly.
Plant the most drought-tolerant vegetation within three feet of your home and adjacent to structures to prevent ignition.
Provide at least a 10 to 15 foot separation between islands of shrubs and plant groups to effectively break-up continuity of vegetation.
Create tire-safe zones with stone walls, patios, swimming pools, decks and roadways.
Ask the power company to clear branches from powerlines.
Clear a 10-foot area around propane tanks and the barbecue.
Place a screen over the grill-use non-flammable material with mesh no coarser that one-quarter inch.

Checklist for Landscaping to defend your property:
The choice of plants, spacing and maintenance are crucial elements in any defensible space.
Carefully space the trees you plant.
Trim grass on a regular basis up to 100 feet surrounding your home.
Beyond 30 feet, remove dead wood, debris and Iow tree branches.
Landscape your property with fire resistant plants and vegetation to prevent fire from spreading quickly.
Stack firewood at least 30 feet away from your home and other structures.
Store flammable materials, liquids and solvents in metal containers outside the home, at least 30 feet away from structures and wooden fences.
Check your local nursery or county extension service for advice on fire resistant plants that are suited for the Taos Canyon environment.
Use rock, mulch, flowerbeds and gardens as ground cover for bare spaces and as effective firebreaks.
There are no "fire-proof' plants. Select high moisture plants that grow close to the ground and have a low sap or resin content.
Choose plant species that resist ignition such as Snow in summer, Creeping thyme, Ice plant and Periwinkle. Fire-resistant shrubs include Sand cherry, Elderberry, Woods rose, Virginia creeper, Skunkbrush sumac and Lilac.
Plants should be low-growing, and well-spaced trees in this area, remembering to keep the volume of vegetation (fuel) low.
Keep trees and shrubs pruned. Prune all trees up to 6' to 10' from the ground.
Remove leaf clutter and dead and overhanging branches.
Mow your lawn regularly.
Dispose of cuttings and debris promptly, according to local regulations.
Be sure the irrigation system is well maintained.
Use care when refueling garden equipment and maintain it regularly.
Store and use flammable liquids properly.
Dispose of smoking materials carefully.
Become familiar with local regulations regarding vegetative clearances, disposal of debris, and fire safety requirements for equipment.
Follow manufacturers' instructions when using fertilizers and pesticides.

Should emergency conditions occur take the following actions:
Be ready to evacuate all family members and pets when fire nears or when instructed to do so by local officials.
Listen to your radio for reports and evacuation information.
Turn on a battery-operated radio to get the latest emergency information.
Remove combustible items from around the house.
1. Lawn and poolside furniture
2. Umbrellas
3. Tarp coverings
4. Firewood
Move flammable furniture into the center of the home away from windows and sliding-glass doors.
Take down flammable drapes and curtains and close all venetian blinds or noncombustible window coverings.
Take action to protect your home.
1. Close all doors and windows inside your home to prevent draft.
2. Close gas valves and turn off all pilot lights.
3. Turn on a light in each room for visibility in heavy smoke.
4. Place valuables that will not be damaged by water in a pool or pond.
5. If hoses and adequate water are available, leave sprinklers on roofs and anything that might be damaged by fire.
Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of evacuation.
Close back doors and windows.
Leave the key in the ignition.
Close garage window and doors, but leave them unlocked.
Disconnect automatic garage door openers.
Tell someone when you are leaving and where you are going.
If you evacuate your home place a note on the door indicating when you left and where you are going.
Wear protective clothing in an emergency - sturdy shoes, cotton or woolen clothing, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves and a handkerchief to protect your face.
Take your disaster supplies kit.
Lock your home.
Choose a route away from fire hazards.
Watch for changes in the speed and direction for fire and smoke.

DO NOT ENTER YOUR HOME, until authorities notify you that it is safe to return, do not take any risks. Take care when re-entering a burned wildland area. Hot spots can flare up without warning. When you are cleared to re-enter, check the roof immediately and surrounding area around the home and any evidence of hot spots, extinguish any sparks or embers. Check the attic for hidden burning sparks. For several hours afterward, re-check for smoke and sparks throughout the home.

If trapped in a Wildland Fire, crouch in a pond or river if possible. If water is not around, look for shelter in a cleared area or among a bed of rocks. Lie flat and cover the head and upper body with dry clothing or soil. Dig a small hole and put your face in it. Breathe the air close to the ground to avoid scorching lungs or inhaling smoke. The greatest immediate danger to life is breathing superheated air or steam.

From the Project Manager:

This information is part of the "The Taos Canyon Fire Protection Plan", currently underway and is not complete, but pertinent information was extracted for distribution in a "checklist format". The grant was awarded to the community of Taos Canyon, by the U.S. Forest Service and the goal to build on the foundation of this fire protection plan, to create effective fire protection programs; and further develop permanent protection through a conservancy program.
The Taos Canyon community, in helping to solve current wildfire crisis, must come together, work together and develop proper management, problem-solving capabilities.

Acknowledgments: I gratefully acknowledge the information provide by the US Forest Service, FEMA, NM State Forestry, EPA, USGS and BLM.

Fire Prevention In The Home

•U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 358,300 home structure fires per year during 2010-2014, which represents three-quarters of all structure fires.

•Home fires caused an annual average of
* 2,560 civilian fire deaths, or 93% of all civilian structure fire deaths,
* 12,720 civilian fire injuries, or 87% of all civilian structure fire injuries, and
* $6.7 billion in direct damage, or 69% of total direct damage in structure fires.

•On average, seven people died in U.S. home fires per day.

•Cooking equipment was the leading cause of home structure fires and home fire injuries and ties with heating as the second leading cause of home fire deaths.

•Smoking was the leading cause of civilian home fire deaths. Heating equipment was the second most common cause of home fires, fire deaths, (tied with cooking), and fire injuries.

To schedule a free home fire safety inspection contact RFFD at 575-751-1608. Home safety inspections are a free public service offered by the Rio Fernando Fire Department.

General Fire Safety Tips
Keep a fire extinguisher in your home and car, and read the directions.
Don't smoke. If you must smoke, don't smoke in bed. Keep cigarettes and ashtrays away from curtains, upholstered furniture, and other combustibles, and make sure they are dead out when you are finished.
Remember that smoke, heat and toxic gases from fires can kill you long before flames get to your part of the structure. KEEP LOW when evacuating.
GET OUT of your house if you have a fire - call 911 from your neighbor's house.
Remember that lives are much more valuable than property. If you're out of the building, STAY OUT!
Set up Evacuation Drills In The Home - practice evacuating your house, and meeting at the designated point OUTSIDE.

Fire Safety Tips Regarding Children
Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children.
Teach your children never to play with matches, lighters, or fireworks.
Teach your children how to call 911, as well as their address and telephone number.
Teach your children the "Stop, Drop, and Roll" method to extinguish flames on themselves.

Never "Barbecue" or grill indoors on a smoker or barbecue grill. Use these devices at least 30 feet from any structures.
Don't leave food unattended on the stove.
Keep dangling clothing away from burners.
Turn handles on pots and pans so that they can't be knocked off the stove accidently.
Make sure your stove is turned off and small appliances are turned off or unplugged before leaving the house or going to bed.

Fire Safety In Your Vehicle
Don't fill your portable gasoline cans in your vehicle - remove the can from the vehicle.
When transporting portable gasoline cans, ensure that the container is approved for gasoline storage, is sealed tightly, and is not left in the vehicle for longer than absolutely necessary, especially on a warm or sunny day.
If you smell gasoline or suspect a gasoline leak, don't operate the car until the leak is repaired.
If you smell smoke or see flames, pull over well off the traveled roadway as soon as safely possible to do so. Don't attempt to drive any further.

Electrical and Heating Hazards
Replace frayed or cracked electrical wiring.
Don't run electric power cords under rugs.
Always look for the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM) labels when purchasing appliances, storage containers or electrical accessories.
Plug electric space heaters directly into the wall socket, not into extension cords.
Place heaters where they will not be knocked over easily, and unplug when they are not in use.
Do not use heaters to dry clothing or other items.
Make sure your fireplace or woodburning stove is clean and in good repair before using it.
Keep all combustible materials well away from the heat.
Make sure you use the proper fuel for your heating device:
DON'T use gasoline in a kerosene heater.
DON'T burn coal in a device meant to burn wood.
Don't store gasoline or other explosives in your house.

Smoke Detectors
Check your smoke detectors monthly, and replace the batteries in them in the spring and fall when you adjust your clocks.
Install at least one smoke detector on each floor of your house, away from air vents, and at least six inches away from walls and corners.
Install smoke detectors near all bedrooms.
If there are any smokers in the house, install a smoke detector in their bedroom.
If your smoke detector sounds while you are in bed, DON'T SIT UP! Roll out of bed, and stay low to the floor - remember that the heat and toxic gases are up higher.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detectors
If you burn anything in your house, such as wood, natural gas, propane, kerosene, or coal, install a Carbon Monoxide (CO) detector. This device can warn you of potentially deadly CO gas before the concentration reaches the harmful level.
Learn the warning signs of CO poisoning: redness of the skin, headaches, dizziness, nausea, weakness, loss of muscle control, chest tightness, heart fluttering, sleepiness, confusion, vomiting or diarrhea. If more than one person in the household is sick, and they feel better after being away from the house for a while, CO poisoning should be suspected. If you suspect CO poisoning, get out of the house and call the fire department.

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