Western Wildfires on the Rampage Again… Destroying Homes, Forcing Evacuations and Causing Respiratory Problems

One of the worst things about a lack of rain is how dry and brittle everything becomes.

That’s especially true of trees. And of other vegetation in many communities and surrounding wooded areas.

Those who reside in California and other Western states know exactly what I mean. Last year residents of many states in the West had to deal with devastating wildfires.

From the looks of it, we could be headed into that same type of scenario this summer and fall.

Colorado and California Hit Hardest

The National Interagency Fire Center reported more than 60 large blazes across the country last week.

Most of those fires were raging in the drought-stricken West. That’s where there was concern that Fourth of July fireworks could make the problem worse.

Dozens of those fires were roaring in California and Colorado. They destroyed homes and landscapes.

Thousands of people whose homes were in the paths of these fires had to evacuate.

State of Emergency in Utah

In Colorado, the third largest wildfire on record was still growing last week. It had expanded to 147 square miles, about 200 miles southwest of Denver.

It had also destroyed 100 houses and chased some 2,000 people out of their homes. Nearly 1,000 firefighters were working to halt the fires’ progress.

But the fire was too large and intense. Officials predicted it would not be fully contained until the end of July.

In Utah, the governor declared a state of emergency. A blaze grew to approximately 60 square miles not far from a popular fishing reservoir. They told residents in the area to evacuate.

And a fire in a rural area northwest of Sacramento, California scorched about 130 square miles.

5 Tips to Protect Your Home from a Wildfire

We gave some tips earlier this year to help prevent wildfires. Here are 5 additional tips you can take to protect your home from wildfires, according to SierraClub.org.

  • Proof your roof. Your roof will be protected when embers from nearby wildfires land on it if it is made of nonflammable materials such as asphalt shingles, metal, slate or tile. In addition, remove leaves and pine needles from your gutters.
  • Keep embers out. Cover exterior vent openings with one-eighth inch hardware cloth. That should keep out embers, which can catch carpets, shades and furniture on fire. Replace missing shingles or tiles on your roof. Use double-paned or tempered glass for your windows.
  • Secure the perimeter. Move firewood stacks and propane tanks at least 30 feet away from your house. So says the National Fire Prevention Agency’s (NFPA) Wildfire Division. Keep other items away from the house, including mulch, plants containing oils and resins (such as juniper and pine), and materials from building projects.
  • Create a “defensible” space. Radiant heat from a severe wildfire can ignite a house from up to 100 feet away. Keep combustible material as far away from the structure as possible. In this “zone,” keep vegetation watered, prune low-hanging tree branches and space plants out.
  • Work together. Encourage your neighbors to make their homes as fireproof as possible. The U.S. Forest Service has a program to help “fire-adapted communities.” The NFPA also has resources for communities seeking to band together to protect homes from wildfires.

Air Pollution from Wildfires is Harmful to Your Health

Those in the vicinity of wildfires have more to worry about than losing a home or having to evacuate.

There is also the problem of exposure to toxins in the smoke when near a wildfire. Problems can range from irritated eyes and headaches to sore throats and shortness of breath. Even serious lung problems can develop.

It’s definitely a good idea to stay inside when the air outside gets full of ash and smoke from nearby wildfires.
But unfortunately, pollution still can still make its way into the house.

As cold air gets inside your home in winter, it forces you to turn on your furnace. As warm air gets inside your home in summer, it forces you to turn on your air conditioner. The same thing happens with air pollution.

And even when there aren’t wildfires around, the Centers for Disease Control says that poor indoor air quality is a big problem.

Americans spend approximately 90 percent of their time inside. This means that indoor air pollution can be worse for people’s health than outdoor air pollution.

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