Late this afternoon, a house in an adjoining neighborhood caught fire. It appears to be a total loss. Fortunately, no one was hurt. This is what I saw from across the greenbelt:
The greenbelt aspect of this is important; I'll explain why in a moment.
I saw the smoke near my house as I was out for a walk. Thinking the fire was in a nearby park, I started running that direction. I could hear fire trucks off in the distance, but I wasn't sure where they were headed.
I reached a vantage point where about 50 people were watching the fire. Many were taking pictures (some of the video taken by residents is being used on television station websites tonight), as did I. Social media has a way of creating citizen journalists, allowing us to see what's happening in our communities much more quickly than traditional media can provide.
Many people were wondering aloud what was going on, whether the yard around the house was on fire, whether there were firefighters in the house, and if there were any people in the house when the fire started.
I already knew the answers to all of those questions. But how?
The smart phone is good for a lot of things, and not just taking pictures of disasters. I have three separate police scanner apps on my iPhone. So while people were taking videos and texting pictures of the fire, this is what was on my iPhone:
I was listening to the firefighters' radio traffic (it helps that I served as a volunteer firefighter, so I could understand what it was they were saying). Turns out they had already checked the house for victims both with interior searches and by calling the local power company to determine whether there were any electricity-dependent residents living there. The fire was intense, and so the commander had pulled all firefighters out of the house to begin what is known as a defensive attack on the house - meaning they were just trying to keep the fire from spreading.
That's why the greenbelt in the picture is important. We're experiencing significant fire weather conditions here in Austin at the moment, and the greenbelt is basically a large canyon filled with dry vegetation and cedar trees - two things that burn hot and quick in a wildfire. Had the fire spread into that canyon (the house backed up to it), we would have a much larger emergency on our hands, endangering hundreds of homes and thousands of lives.
I'd like to share a few thoughts and observations as a prepper and former firefighter from this afternoon's event:
Me on the roof between Christmas and New Year's a few weeks ago blowing out the gutters with the new backpack leaf blower my parents got me for Christmas. They object to me being on the roof with the leaf blower. They don't read this blog, so as long as you don't tell them, they won't know that I still do it.
As I am fond of telling you, "execute the basics well." Know how to respond to basic emergencies around your home, such as fires. Check the batteries in your smoke alarms. Check the charge of your fire extinguishers. Put a fire extinguisher in your vehicle. Practice your plan to get out of your house. Make sure your important documents are secured either on line away from home or in a fireproof box.
What are you doing to prepare for the risk of house fires? Leave your comments below.
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