Updates & Thoughts on the Fort Davis Fire
“We’ve had fires, but this is the first one where we’ve lost so many structures,” George Grubb, Judge for Fort Davis
We’re 200 or so miles North of Fort Davis today, but still very much occupied by thinking about everything that’s happened (and still happening) back in the Davis Mountains. We’ve been overwhelmed and humbled by the outpouring of comments and well-wishes on the blog, and feel more thankful than ever that we were home and able to get out as easily as we did. I have to give credit to the rangers and local authorities who did an excellent job getting everyone organized and evacuated in time (according to news reports no-one has been injured in the fire).
Unfortunately, things are not done yet. I’ve been anxiously following reports of the fire and blaze as it’s been moving across the mountains. The ultra-low humidity and high winds have apparently sparked over 19 fires across SW Texas, many of which are still burning today (see this morning’s news reports HERE and HERE). The Fort Davis fire (also being called the “Rock House” fire, the site from which it originated) has burned upwards of 80,000 acres, but is finally coming under some level of control (as of 11AM today it was reported 40% contained HERE). According to the news reports flames entered the State Park, which matches what we heard from the last RVers leaving the campground. but did not burn any structures there, so the Park at least has avoided major damage. Overall, however, it’s been a devastating few days for the locals and heavy work for the fire crews. My deepest thoughts go out to all of them.
The whole experience has also brought up both a lot of questions and thoughts about emergency safety. I have to admit we’re still rather in shock over the whole thing and especially at how *quickly* it happened. There was only ~1 hour between “get ready” and “get out”, and I can’t help thinking what would have happened if we weren’t there or aware of what was going on. Several comments on the blog and forums yesterday have made me think about things we might do differently in the future and I felt it was worth sharing those ideas here.
1/ Having the RV Emergency Ready – We helped a couple at the parking lot in Kent who had made it out of the campground on fumes. They were almost empty on gas and hadn’t thought to fill up since it was only 3 miles to town. This got us thinking about gas, water and other emergency equipment. Being an RV we’re self-contained and ready to survive just about anywhere, but we do need to have the basics ready. We rarely let our gas tank go below 1/2 (~50 gallons = ~350-500 miles of driving), and I think this is a good precaution. We also always keep at least 1/3 tank of fresh water in our tank (~33 gallons). We do also have an emergency medical kit (for both ourselves and our pets) as well as food and tools. I think all of these items are critical.
2/ Moving the RV in an Emergency Situation – We typically take ~40 mins or so to get the RV moving when we leave a spot. A lot of what we do wouldn’t be necessary in an emergency and we’ve talked about how to cut that time down. If needed we can leave behind campground equipment, pile inside items on the bed (eliminating the need to put them away), and leave the car unhooked. If pressed, I believe we could get going in 10 minutes, just enough time to secure the animals, pull in the slides, raise the jacks and leave. It’s worth having this plan ready.
3/ Remaining Aware of Emergencies – We realized yesterday that we really have no adequate warning system in the RV for emergency situations. If we’re boondocking, or away for the day we simply wouldn’t know. The National Weather Service (NWS) prepares and produces Weather Radio broadcasts, including emergency alerts and you can buy receivers that access and warn about public alerts. This is something we need. Read more HERE.
4/ Emergency Pet Preparedness – What would we do if our pets were in the RV in an emergency and we were not there? I’m not clear that I have a firm, comforting answer for this. Some people put pet and contact information on the rig (e.g. on the front door), so they can be contacted in an emergency. I think this is a good suggestion and could be enough in some cases. Others leave the rig door open for access with a “save the pets” sign. I’m conflicted on this idea since I think it leaves the rig too exposed for crime, but I can understand why some do it. Others will leave details with the front office with instructions for how to smash the windows and get in. This idea has merit too.
You can never prepared for all emergencies, but these past few days have certainly made us think about how to be ready in a better way. If you have more ideas feel free to share them in the comments. In the meantime I’ll leave you with a few more pictures of the gorgeous Davis Mountains and hope you’ll share me in sending thoughts to the people and fire-crews in SW Texas still battling the fires over there.