Today we present another article for this round in our non-fiction writing contest – by Chuck
I started prepping while living in Alaska for nearly 12 years. When I moved down to the lower 48 states a little over 2 years ago, I met a wonderful woman who is now my wife. My wonderful wife is my partner and best friend in in the prepping lifestyle. We both enjoy the self-sustaining lifestyle of prepping but found out recently that we still had some more areas to work on.
A few months ago, my wife and I moved to the eastern part of Washington State in order for my wife to be close to her elderly parents. We moved onto their rural 20 acre property and live in our travel trailer. We both enjoy the rustic lifestyle and work hard to improve our preparedness for whatever we may face.
My in laws live on thickly wooded acres in the county. Our home is surrounded by land owners who also have large tracts of thickly wooded rural property. Railroad tracks are less than a ¼ mile away and run the through a valley neighboring everyone’s property. On the property we had had an established fenced area where we housed 26 birds that included both chickens and ducks. We also had a goat shelter where our 2 Nigerian dwarf goats resided.
On Wednesday June 24, 2015 my father in law came to the trailer and stated that a wild fire was coming our way. My wife was at work and only my father in law and I were home when this occurred. Going outside I noted a large smoke cloud not far from our property. Putting on sneakers, I initially started to drag a garden hose to the house where the water faucets were but soon noted that my father in law had a hose already hooked up with the sprinklers on which covered the porch area. Noting that my water hose was useless at this point, I went up to the chicken and goat pen and noted the fire was several hundred yards away and closing. With the help of my father in law, we were able to get the goats out and packed into his dog trailer where he had his hunting dogs already packed up.
The fire was getting closer, the air was heating up, and now ash was starting to be in the air of the house and trailer. I grabbed both of our Bug Out Bags (BOB’s), portable water jugs, a large tent, my firearms, the cat and my dogs and loaded everything into our Suburban. Minutes after driving down our 1/4 mile wooded driveway, the fire swept over the property and crossed our driveway into the neighbor’s area. I estimate that I only had 20-30 minutes from the initial warning until I drove off the property.
Six hours later the Fire Department allowed us back unto the property to gather a few essentials. The area was still actively burning and Fire Department personnel were everywhere attempting to secure the area around the homes. The Fire Department personnel had saved my in laws home and our trailer from burning. Thank you is not enough for those individuals who saved our home. After placing our animals in a local kennel, we spent two nights in a local hotel. On Friday, when we returned home there were parts of the property still actively burning.
The Fire Department has reported that a train probably started the wild fire by emitting sparks which ignited the dry vegetation. I was informed that the fire jumped both train tracks, and when up the hill to burn our area. The area was dry, hot and had no rain for weeks. Nearly 150 rural wooded acres burned. Today (Monday) as I write this, there are still hot spots around the property. Woodland firefighters are still present around the property dousing hot spots.
We lost our entire flock of chickens and ducks. The fired destroyed 2 chicken coops and the goat shelter. The main house was burned in the area of the deck and had some internal damage due to the open windows and hot embers getting inside. Our trailer suffered some minor damage. Our two carports and everything underneath them were completely destroyed.
The day after the fire we called our insurance company, State Farm, and were told not to do anything until and adjuster called. We called the company again on Friday, and again on Saturday and never heard from the adjuster. On Monday, we finally heard from an adjuster who is located in Arizona. The adjuster informed us that because we did not change our policy address immediately on moving we would only be reimbursed 10% of our total policy for our losses. The adjuster also stated there is nothing in our policy that allows for post fire cleanup. My wife and I didn’t know either of these “policy” stipulations. I will say this to everyone I can. State Farm has TERRIBLE customer service. Read your policies now and know them before you have to deal with such a terrible company like this. It appears that the company is looking for ways not to pay out for our claims, even though my wife has been with them for years.
So, what did we learn from this situation? My initial reaction to the fire alarm was one of low concern. I should have immediately taken a more serious approach to the warning. Many of our preps were located in various areas of the property and were not consolidated for quick packing. Due to my short time frame to pack and our important preps were not consolidated I simply did not pack them. This include food (human and dog), sleeping bags, and extra ammunition for the firearms. My wife found areas for improvement in how she packs her Bug Out Bag. PS: Don’t forget the extra pair of underwear for you BOB. Comfort in this area is important.
We were able to save our cat, dogs, and goats. We were able to live out of our BOB’s for several days while in the local hotel. We were very blessed to have family and friends of my in laws who helped us in several ways after the fire occurred.
In conclusion, I encourage everyone to reevaluate their individual situation. If you had to bug out of home with a very short notice, would you be able to quickly load up everything you need? Are you insurance policies up to date and you are familiar with those policies? What areas can you find where improvement can be made? Where would you go if you had to quickly leave your home? What about your animals?
I do thank God for his hand watching over us. We still have a roof over our heads, our health, and our pets. We have lost thousands of dollars in damage and will not recover those losses from insurance reimbursement. Yet, we are still blessed. I hope everyone reading this takes the time and reevaluates their situation. Do not think it can’t happen to you.
Prizes for this round (ends July 10 2015 ) in our non fiction writing contest include…
- First place winner will receive – A case of Yoder’s Canned Bacon (12 cans, $169.95), a case of Future Essentials Canned Green Coffee Beans (12 cans, $143.30 value), and a case of our Future Essentials Canned Breakfast/Cold Cereal Variety with Milk (12 cans; a can each of Raisin Bran, Rice Krispies, Corn Flakes, Apple O’s, Whole Grain Frosted Wheat’s, Cocoa Rice Krispies, Honey & Nut O’s, Fruity O’s and Frosted Flakes, as well as three (3) Cans of Powdered Milk Substitute (18 oz. each) – (a value of $62.90) all courtesy MRE Depot and a WonderMix Bread Mixer courtesy of FoodPrepper.com a $300 value. Total first place prize value over$674.
- Second Place Winner will receive – A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $283 value) and an autographed copy of 31 Days to Survival…
- Third place winner will receive – A gift certificate for $150 off of Hornady Ammo courtesy of LuckyGunner Ammo.