Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Pleasant Valley residents scramble to escape as the Andrew fire overruns the south end of Neilson Road Wednesday afternoon.

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal
Pleasant Valley residents scramble to escape as the Andrew fire overruns the south end of Neilson Road.

I awoke to the smell of thick campfire-like smoke that had filtered into my bedroom. I jumped out of bed, turned on the bedroom light switch and nothing… the electricity was out. I ran to the window to see the glow of flames cresting the hill on the other side of McCarran Blvd, a major four-lane Reno highway. Since the wind was blowing and the fire was close and spreading, I made the decision to evacuate. Outside, the sky was orange from the wildfire and the street was congested with fire engines and trucks along with vehicles of evacuating residents. Fortunately, I was able to negotiate the chaos safely with my laptop in one hand and some clothes in the other. I’m lucky that my residence and I were unscathed from the wildfire. In the early morning hours of November 18, 2011, this was my experience during the Caughlin Fire.

Now place yourself in a wildfire evacuation at your house.  Imagine smelling smoke and frantically searching your house for belongings to pack while a wildfire threatens to ignite your home. The electricity is out making your search that much more difficult. Panic begins to cloud your judgement. What would you pack? What if you are unable to quickly find certain items? Have you considered how your neighborhood would evacuate? How many routes can you take to get out? Is there a locked gate that can be unlocked to allow for multiple evacuation routes?  Wildfires and evacuations occur and time may be a precious but unavailable commodity. Fortunately, the best way to ease these evacuation concerns is to plan and prepare.

What better way to prepare for wildfire evacuation than to attend The Nevada Network of Fire Adapted Communities 3rd Annual Conference! Held March 27 from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Paradise A & B Ballrooms, this event is free to the community and includes conference materials, continental breakfast, refreshments and lunch. Listen to real-life experiences from firefighters and residents who were involved with recent wildfire evacuations, learn how to properly evacuate a home and an entire community, how firefighters and other emergency responders can work with residents to develop an effective evacuation plan, and how to plan and conduct an evacuation drill in your community. To register for the conference, click here http://bit.ly/2fpfCcr

As a resident who has experienced two separate wildfires, you can bet I’ll be there!

Jamie HeadshotJamie Roice-Gomes is the outreach coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living with Fire Program.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and a Master of Arts in Interactive Environmental Journalism. She was a public relations assistant for Conrad Communications, a public information officer intern at the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and a Biological Science Technician at the USDA-Agriculture Research Service. She also enjoys volleyball, the Great Basin Desert, and spending time with family. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261 or roicej@unce.unr.edu.

As the Living With Fire Outreach Coordinator, knowing quick updates of current fires is important so we can notify our audience via social media. On Wednesday, I scrolled through Twitter to learn more about the Hawken Fire and I read a Reno Fire Department tweet, “Crews on the scene of another fire threatening structures off of Driscoll Dr. Fire attack is underway #DriscollFire.” My blood ran cold. That’s near my house. Adrenaline pumped through my body as I raced my car from the office to my house. Once in my neighborhood, I was stopped by Reno Police Department and was forced to park my vehicle one-third of a mile away from my house. I got out and literally ran up steep streets to grab my dog and personal belongings.  The closer to my house, the more the streets were cluttered with fire engines, NV Energy vehicles, unmarked white trucks and Volunteer Search and Rescue vehicles. Fire hoses ran along the street and water trickled from them down the pavement. Once I reached the corner of my street, some of my neighbors congregated  and watched firefighters spray water at the charred, smoking fire scar. The fire was mostly contained and except for one damaged structure, all homes were saved. A wave of relief came over me. We are safe. Thank goodness for the swift action of the Reno Fire Department and other emergency responders. Fire season is upon us, and it’s important to be prepared for potential evacuations. I was not prepared this time.

A scene of the Driscoll fire and emergency responders

A scene of the Driscoll Fire and emergency responders.

 

The Living With Fire website has interactive multimedia that explains what you can do during a fire , as well as an evacuation checklist . For example, did you consider that you should take important documents such as bank, IRS, trust, investment, insurance policies, birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, medical and immunization records, wills, contracts, titles and deeds? Or did you think to bring your pet’s medication and vaccination information? It’s also a good idea to have pictures of your animal that show distinguishing marks just in case your pet gets lost. I never considered any of these, but now I have a box of these documents and pictures that I can grab if I’m forced to quickly evacuate. Now I am prepared for the next time.

Please take the time to check out these links. Stay tuned for other blogs on my experiences of a homeowner in a fire prone area.

Jamie Headshot

Jamie Roice-Gomes is the outreach coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living with Fire Program.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and a Master of Arts in Interactive Environmental Journalism. She was a public relations assistant for Conrad Communications, a public information officer intern at the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and a Biological Science Technician at the USDA-Agriculture Research Service. She also enjoys volleyball, the Great Basin Desert, and spending time with her husband and their mini Australian Shepard. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261 or roicej@unce.unr.edu.