Wildfires in the Snow: Lessons Learned

We were expecting snow that Thursday evening.  I was up at “o-dark hundred” getting ready for an early morning meeting before going to the airport to catch a flight out to Boston for Thanksgiving.  Suddenly it’s all over the news – a huge wildfire moving rapidly through the foothills of Reno heading toward the southwest neighborhoods (where we live).  It started with downed power lines.  Pushed by winds of up to 80 miles an hour off the Sierra Mountains the fire was traveling very fast through the canyons. Well, that got my attention!

It’s amazing how fast things can change.  Our daily routines are our comfort zones and we get a lot done each day, each week, month and year.  We plan ahead and we work the plan.  But when things suddenly change we have to move fast to accommodate whatever is needed in that circumstance.

Be Ready to Move Fast

So when the telephone calls came in to “voluntary evacuate” my husband, Wally, and I were already in high gear.  Our suitcases were packed for a week away; important papers were in several portable files from the last season of wildfires and the dogs were ready to jump in the car for a ride.  So off to the local donut shop we went to follow the news and to coordinate with family members plans for my elderly father who lived right in the center of the fire’s path.

All worked out fine for us.  But 29 families lost their homes completely.  These folks had gone to bed that night expecting that the following day would be a normal Friday routine.  It was anything but normal for them; for our first responders and for our Reno community.  And it was totally unexpected . . . after all it was suppose to snow.

Lessons Learned

Every community has its own challenges with the threat of natural or manmade disasters.  We can’t live a healthy life being afraid but we can be proactive.  Here’s how . . . don’t get too comfortable.  Just when you think that life is so routine and predictable it will take a u-turn.  Something will happen that you would never expect. Think ahead of what you would do in a worst case scenario and make some initial plans.  Nothing fancy but just what you would do when – especially if you’re also responsible for family members.  You may never need these backup plans but you have them.  And then you can enjoy that snow when it does come right on schedule.

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