It ain’t over till it’s over

by | Dec 15, 2021 | 2021 Wildfire Advent


Just because the fire is gone, doesn’t mean the crisis is over. There is much to do after a fire has swept through your neighborhood. 

Returning home

Here are some key safety steps Calfire urges you to take when returning home after being evacuated:

  1. First of all, do not return to your home until the evacuation order has been or fire officials tell you it is safe to return.
  2. Before inspecting your home, first check for the smell of gas.
  3. Look for smoke or sparks throughout the house and on rooftops.
  4. Do not drink or use water from the faucet until emergency officials say it is okay; water supply systems can be damaged and become polluted during wildfires.
  5. Discard any food that has been exposed to heat, smoke, flood waters, or soot.

Here’s Calfire’s complete two-page checklist of what to do when returning home after a wildfire.

Mobilize your community

Dealing with the aftermath of a recent wildfire shouldn’t be undertaken alone. Now is the time to work with neighbors: Who has special needs that perhaps you could help with?  Who has resources that the neighborhood can share? 

Beware that wildfire can cause instability to the ground around you.

“Wildfires dramatically change the landscape and ground conditions, which can lead to the increased risk of flooding even with light rains. … When these normal and protective functions are compromised or eliminated by a severe wildfire the potential for significant erosion, flooding, and debris flows is magnified.”(Calfire, Post-Wildfire Recovery)

Responding to these dangers and solving problems such as debris removal are best approached together.

It takes a long time to recover

Recovery from wildfire damage may require painful decisions, insurance claims, neighborhood clean up, and even home design and construction permitting. It can take years,

“The [neighbors] that I do speak with are on a journey of decision making about whether to rebuild or not.  … one day it’s ‘Yes’, one day it’s ‘No’. … It’s over a year later, and nobody has started to rebuild in my neighborhood.”

(JS, after the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex Fire)

The good news is that there are many resources available to help you through the recovery process. CalFire lists non-government, state, and federal organizations that you can turn to. Also, there may be localized resources available to your community.

Finally, understand that recovery does happen and stability does return even though disaster does cause change,

“My neighborhood will never be the same. … People are gone. My dearest neighbors don’t live here anymore. … people whose children I knew since they were born. And just the character of the neighborhood changes, because some of the characters are gone. … But then, there are some situations … I’ve gotten closer to some of the neighbors that have survived, than I was with them before.”

(JS, after the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex Fire)

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