It's all over the news - the Southwest is on fire. Currently there are approximately 10 fires burning in Arizona, 11 in New Mexico. Arizona is over 80 days without measurable rain, New Mexico had over 100 days. There was rain in Southern NM a few weeks ago but it wasn't near enough to relieve the drought.
In talking with a recent Tucson transplant, she told me how strange it was to her to see so many fires. I guess growing up in the Southwest, it's just something we've always dealt with. I told her, while pointing to the Catalina Mountains, "I'd be really shocked if we don't see a fire there this summer."
Monument Fire, south of Sierra Vista, Arizona
Photo courtesy of the National Forest Service
Yep - just a part of life out here.
If you're a new home owner and live in an area surrounded by desert like in the Catalina Foothills in Tucson or Talavera in Las Cruces, there are things that you must do to protect your home.
First and foremost, create a fire break around your property and out buildings. Most suggest at least a 10 foot fire break. Contact your local fire department for their suggestions. The key here is to clear out anything that would create a 'ladder' for flames like large brush, trees and other tall vegitation. Clear grass, dead leaves/limbs, cactus - anything that could be used a fuel.
Don't stack or lean anything flamable against your home, either, like wood piles, wooden ladders, lattice work and even plants. Keep landscaping at a distance as well. Local landscaping companies are a great resource for helping you plan your lay out.
Take every precaution you can when it comes to the fire danger. Talk with your new neighbors, too. Get to know them, talk with them to find out what they do and, in case of a fire emergency, you can work together to make it through.
Get in touch with your local Red Cross, too. They have checklists and information readily available for you and your family. The last thing you need is to be told to evacuate and only have 5 minutes to gather things. Prepare in advance because fire is very unpredictable - it can be heading one way and switch direction in a heartbeat.
Pet owners - note that some shelters do not allow animals without being crated. Many animal clinics and rescue groups have stepped up to help pet and livestock owners here in Arizona. It's been amazing to watch and read the stories. Get as many crates as you need for your pets, store a leash or two in each one and tape your vet's card and your information on the top - just in case you have to board your animal quickly.
Finally - and this is the biggest tip I can give you - when told to evacuate, GET OUT. Do not hesitate when you hear the loudspeakers on the police cars, telling you to leave. It is not worth your life or your family's life to try to save your home.
My heart goes out to everyone affected by these fires. I'm watching the video of the businesses and homes lost and it's heartbreaking to say the least. The cool thing is seeing the communities coming together to help out. Here's to hoping the monsoon comes soon.