Friday, May 30, 2008

Prepare, Stay, and Defend.....in Montana

The practice of "shelter in place", also known as "prepare, stay, and defend" has been used in Australia and South Africa for decades, but it is rarely used as an official policy in the United States. However, the Painted Rocks Fire Rescue Company near Darby, Montana is hosting a public training session June 7-8 about Prepare, Stay, and Defend.

In addition to having a researcher from Tasmania at the meeting, a second researcher from the US Forest Service will be there to gather information about how the program is received by local residents. Battallion Chief Alan Tresemer will be the instructor.

The concept of prepare, stay, and defend involves having a homeowner in a rural area make their home as fire safe as possible by using fire resistant construction materials and removing flammable vegetation around the structure. Then, if the home is threatened by fire, the homeowner stays at the home, sheltering in place. By remaining at the house, they would be able to extinguish small spot fires near the structure, increasing the chances that the house will survive.

And by not evacuating, they would not be exposed to traffic tie-ups, or becoming entrapped by a fast moving fire. During the Cedar fire near San Diego in 2003 several at least five citizens died on Wildcat Canyon Road while they were fleeing the fire. And in the Tunnel (or East Bay Hills) fire near Oakland, CA in 1991 the same thing happened.

UPDATE, January 23, 2009
Further research about the Tunnel and Cedar fires reveals that 8 of the 14 citizens who died in the Cedar fire perished while they were evacuating. And 19 died while trying to evacuate from the Tunnel fire in Oakland.

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