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Be Ready Utah: What to do when wildfires close in on your home

Jun 21, 2022, 4:37 PM

A fire engine is seen as the Sheep fire burns in Wrightwood, Calif., Monday, June 13, 2022. (AP Pho...

A fire engine is seen as the Sheep fire burns in Wrightwood, Calif., Monday, June 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

(AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

SALT LAKE CITY — June 21 is the first official day of summer 2022, and with the warmer temperatures inevitably come wildfires. And one of the biggest concerns of fire season is being in the path of a fire that forces you and your family to evacuate your home and neighborhood.

Randall Jeppson, the executive producer of Utah’s Morning News, spoke with KSL NewsRadio’s Dave Noriega and guest host Greg Skordas about what it was like to evacuate as the Knolls Fire closed in on his Saratoga Springs neighborhood in 2020.

Then, Wade Mathews of The Utah Division of Emergency Management shared tips on preparing your home for a fire evacuation.

Wildfires burning and closing in on home

In 2012, another fire had threatened Jeppson’s Saratoga Springs neighborhood but it was quickly extinguished by firefighters. That experience prompted the Jeppson family to put their most important and cherished items, like passports, birth certificates, and family heirlooms, in a bin.

“It’s June and this huge fire starts a couple of miles down the street from my house,” Jeppson said. “It was super windy — kind of like it’s been the last few days.”

As the Knolls fire closed in, firefighters were racing up and down the street telling neighbors to evacuate immediately, Jeppson recalled.

Jeppson’s family fled in the minivan. He stayed behind, closing all windows and shutting off the air conditioning.

“When I walked out of the house, probably 10 minutes later, I couldn’t even see across the street,” Jeppson said.

With the wildfire approaching, he jumped in his car, and raced down the street — only to be stuck in a traffic jam for 30 minutes as he “watched the flames burn towards our houses.”

Pack a disaster supply kit

By evacuating when he was told by firefighters, Mathews said, Jeppson did the right thing.

“A lot of people, they do what we call milling. They look around and wait for more information and see what the neighbors are going to do,” he said.

Instead you need to just act immediately. That’s the difference between life and death. That’s the difference between being a victim and a survivor.”

He also said to have a disaster supply kit ready. It should contain food, water, medication, clothing, tools — whatever you need to get by for a few days while you shelter outside of the wildfire area.

Other than the disaster supply kit, Mathews added, make a list of the irreplaceable items such as documents and priceless family heirlooms, etc., that you need to take in case of a wildfire in your area.

“What happens if you run into that traffic jam like Randall did?” asked Dave.

“Leave on foot versus being faced with the flames, that’s probably another option as well. Hopefully, law enforcement can get that traffic jam moving quickly,” Mathews said.

“At some point, if you have to leave all your stuff behind, you gotta leave your stuff behind,” Dave said. “You are the most important possession.”

Related:

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard on weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

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Be Ready Utah: What to do when wildfires close in on your home