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  • Writer's pictureTim Doherty

Planning Is Not Limited To Estates

Updated: Jul 2, 2023

Before I was a lawyer I was a firefighter for over thirty years. In my youth it was all about the fight, "putting the wet stuff on the red stuff." But as I matured and saw the devastating effects of the fires I was going to it became clear to me that the best fire I ever fought was the fire I helped to prevent, or at least mitigate. Planning is crucial to preventing and responding to fires. When our house was engulfed in the 2017 Tubbs fire, my wife was home alone to face the onslaught. Fortunately we had discussed what should happen in the event of a fire, including a wildfire. When an explosion woke her at 2am she looked out our second floor bedroom window to see a wall of fire on the street behind our house and said oddly she did not panic as much as she kicked into "autopilot."

She said she dressed "faster than I have ever dressed in my life." She grabbed the cat carrier and found our cat peering out from under our bed. Knowing she had no time to waste, she grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and in one motion yanked him from under the bed into the carrier and closed it. Jogging downstairs she dropped him near the front door. Then she went into my office and yanked the power cord from the back of my iMAC, which had among other things on it our family photos, and tucked it under her arm. (I had told her if there ever was a fire not to waste time trying to find the plug behind my desk, but to just pull the power cord out of the back of the computer) She went out the door to her car in the driveway, surrounded by a shower of burning embers, that were blowing through the neighborhood, which was eerily deserted. Tossing the computer into the back of her car she headed back to the front door to get the cat. As she leaned into the back hatch and pushed in the carrier a police car screeched to a halt at the end of the driveway. An obviously flustered cop rolled down his window and yelled "lady you gotta get out of here now!" She wanted to say "are you kidding," but instead just jumped into the drivers seat and drove down the hill through what was now a blizzard of burning branches, roofing and other flaming bits and pieces being blown past her car by the 60-80 mph wind. In shock, but whole and otherwise unharmed, she made it over to my sister's house where we spent a couple of weeks planning our next move.

The moral of the story is that planning, no matter how simple or intricate, is what often makes the difference between blind panic and organized, deliberate action. Planning before the fire, includes reviewing and updating insurance, making an inventory and photo of your home, having an escape plan, with a few variations, like weekday, nighttime, weekends, etc. Believe me, when there is a fire you want employ organized and deliberate action. For information on planning and fire safety, visit the link below to the website of the National Fire Protection Association, where you will find videos on fire safety, planning and general interest. It's a good activity that you can share with your kids, grandkids and other family members. Also your local fire station is a great place to get information about your particular area and programs for protecting your family and home.

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