Chilly weather sparks brush fire concerns for area fire officials

For local fire officials, the recent chill brought on by the temperature changes has fired up new worries of a strong start to the wildfire season.

“We just had another freeze and frost cycle, and when vegetation dries out, it becomes a dry fuel load, and creates a greater problem,” explained Chief Robert Metzger of the Golden Gate Fire District.

It is also the start of another fire season, but according to Metzger, local residents should be prepared year-round.

“We no longer refer to any particular time of year as fire season,” he said. “It is a relatively recent change, and that is the perspective we are presuming. There really isn’t a reason to let your guard down.”

Jim Von Rinteln, executive director for the American Red Cross, agrees with Metzger that residents should remain vigilant and always staying prepared for brush fire season.

“This is a busy time of year for both home fires and brush fires,” said Von Rinteln from the American Red Cross office in North Naples.

“The American Red Cross volunteers go to house fires in the middle of the night to help residents. We had a single mom we helped during Thanksgiving day, and we helped her family with finding a place to stay for three days until her insurance company took over from there,” said VonRinteln of how the Red Cross reaches out to residents during times of crisis.

Residents can also easily be “Red Cross Ready” by learning more about wildfire risks within neighborhoods by:

• Planning and practicing two ways out of your house — and your neighborhood — in case a primary route is blocked.

• Selecting a place for family members to meet outside your house, or neighborhood in case you cannot get home or need to evacuate.

• Identifying someone who is out of the area to contact if local phone lines are not working.

• Being ready to leave at a moment’s notice if there are reports of wildfires in your area.

• Listening to local radio and television stations for updated emergency information.

• Always backing your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of the escape.

• Confining pets to one room so that you can find them quickly, if you need to evacuate quickly.

• Arranging for temporary housing at a friend’s or relative’s home outside of the threatened area.

For those looking to get involved and help out in the community during brush fire season, multiple classes in brush fire and disaster preparedness are offered at the American Red Cross chapter for local residents to participate in. Classes fill up quickly, so preregistration is highly recommended.

Some of the courses offered in January through April 2011 are “Client Casework: Providing Emergency Assistance,” “Disaster Assessment Basics,” “Disaster Services: An Overview,” “Training in Managing the Disaster Operations Control Form,” “Logistics: An Overview,” “Recordkeeping in a Disaster,” “Shelter Operation,” “Shelter Simulation,” and “The Red Cross National Volunteer Corps.”

“We always recommend people take a Red Cross class, as it gives a level of self sustainment to our community,” said Metzger.

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If You Go:

Collier County American Red Cross

2610 Northbrooke Plaza Drive, Naples

(239) 596-6868

www.colliercountyredcross.org

© 2010 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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