Picture a cold evening camping, enjoying the great outdoors. Hot dogs and marshmallows cooking over an open fire, sparks twinkling in the night and you feeling nice a warm. Fire is a good thing……right?
Or you may remember the Chelan Complex Fire and First Creek Fire in the Lake Chelan Valley that began with five separate fires ignited by lightning strikes at around 5:30 a.m. on Friday, August 14, 2015. By Friday afternoon, the high winds and dry conditions caused the fires to move quickly toward the town of Chelan. It was like we were in a war zone! Maybe fire is not such a good thing?
“The good thing about the Firestorm of 2015 is we learned it pays to be prepared,” said Manson Chamber of Commerce member Jeff Conwell. After the fires were out Jeff led a team of In Case of Emergency (I.C.E.) volunteers and developed an action plan for Manson so our community and guests would be better prepared when the next emergency strikes.
“October 14, 2015 we lost power, irrigation water, cellphones and both highways leading in and out of Chelan were closed because of fires. Many people living here and out of town guest were scared and didn’t know what to do next. Even our emergency information center, KOZI Radio was out of service,” Jeff continued. “We were not prepared when the perfect storm arrived.”
The I.C.E. workgroup located county, state and federal organizations that are already in place to assist during an emergency. “I was really surprised to find how much help is out there,” said Jeff. The workgroup put together an action plan that included developing an I.C.E. document that list all the important resources available. The I.C.E. document is available to everyone and can be found at the Manson Chamber of Commerce office. If you own a business it would be a good idea to have several copies on hand.
The workgroup determined it was very important to designate one place in Manson where people could go during an emergency to find out current information, North Shore Bible Church was chosen. It was also important to build a display board where up to date information could be posted for the public. Lake Chelan Building Supply took on the task. The display board is stored at North Shore Bible Church and has wheels so it can be rolled out at a moment’s notice. One side of the display board is in English, the other side Spanish.
The workgroup put together a one-day I.C.E. event held at North Shore Bible Church. Manson Fire Station #5, EMS, Lake Chelan Community Hospital and others participated in a very informative day. Jeff hopes to hold a similar event this year.
Being prepared starts with you. In an emergency you may be directed to leave your home at a moment’s notice. Important paperwork, medications and things dear to you need to be ready.
Manson Fire Chief Arnold Baker, a twenty year veteran of the fire department seconds the fact that preparedness pays off big time. Arnold said, “We have programs in place that will help folks in our community be prepared. Volunteer firemen at Fire Station #5 offer a free Wildland Structure Assessment of your home and property. They will provide you with information that will make your home safer. Volunteer firemen will also install fire alarms in your home at no cost through a grant from FEMA.”
Here is a list five items Chief Baker feels most important in making your home safer.
(1) Plan and control landscaping of your property. Some insurance companies are now looking at your property to determine if they want to insure your home! Highly flammable plants like Junipers, Arborvitae, Bitterbrush and Sagebrush are highly flammable and if planted on a slope will act like a torch heading up to your home! At a minimum they should be 30 feet from any structure and if on a slope 100 feet.
(2) Having properly working smoke alarms in your home just might save your life. Change batteries once a year.
(3) Firewood next to a structure is more fuel for a fire. Anything flammable should be removed or stored in a safe place.
(4) Make sure your street address is visible from the road. In the case of a fire the firefighters might see smoke but if EMS is responding to a medical issue we don’t want them to waste time trying to locate your home.
(5) Have an I.C.E document at your home and place of work. They have all websites and phone numbers that you will need in an emergency. Chief Baker also added that Chelan County Emergency Management has a Facebook page that is activated during an emergency.
The Manson Chamber of Commerce and the I.C.E. Workgroup have made Manson more safe and more prepared. The rest is up to you.
By Norm Manly