Fire Moons and Evacuation Preparation

Reader Contribution by Maggie Bonham

Tonight we had a fire moon.

I call it that because in the summer when the forest fires start up, the moon glows orange in the sky. I wish it were unusual in Montana, but it’s just not. Fires and smoke every year is the norm until a “season ending event.” Which is usually the first snowfall.

Experience in Living in Wildfire-Prone Areas

I lived in Colorado for many years. During the last few years fires became commonplace there as well as here. As a sled dog racer, I had to have a plan to get out of the mountains if a fire threatened us. While I no longer race sled dogs, I do still have a plan, especially for my animals. Evacuations are last minute affairs and if you get any prior warning, such as being put on standby evacuation, you’re damn lucky. Most of the time if you wait for the authorities to knock on your door, you have no time. You’re lucky if you get out before the flames hit.

I’ve been evacuated once. I’ve been on standby evacuation twice. I’ve lucked out and not lost my home during those instances. The fires have been intense. My husband and I spent a week sleeping on a friend’s hide-a-bed because of evacuations.

Have a Plan

As much as I hate sounding paranoid, my husband and I each have a bug-out bag and a plan should we need to leave fast. It always takes twice as long to get packed up and gone than you’ve planned so have a line drawn in the sand when you’re going to bug out. Know where you can take your animals so they can be cared for. Know where you’re going to stay, even if you’re planning on staying at a friend’s, a relative’s or even at a hotel. Many shelters for fire victims do not take people with animals, so you need to know ahead of time where you’re going. Knowing these things will put you ahead of about 97 percent of the other people who are evacuated.

Don’t Assume Anything

Don’t assume your friends and family will take you in. To my horror, my family refused to take me in because I had one dog who could not be boarded and even though she would stay in her crate most of the time, they didn’t want her there. Even though she was my trained agility dog. Luckily a friend whom I mentioned above took us in. I managed to board half my sled dogs and took care of the other dogs at my friend’s kennel. It was a very stressful time.

Don’t assume that going just a few miles down the road will be enough either. Fires have a tendency to threaten large areas and even metropolitan areas. Knowing where the fire could go is very important.

So tonight I look at the fire moon and sigh. Fire season is on track. I can only hope it’s going to be a short season.

Maggie Bonham is a multiple award-winning author of more than 30 books and the publisher of Sky Warrior Books. You can check out her blog Eating Wild Montana about her adventures with hunting, raising, and growing her own food in Montana.

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