A common sight in Silverado Canyon every September.
The rest of the country may be feeling the first chill of autumn, but in Southern California September heralds the arrival of California’s 5th Season, Fire Season. Once again Silverado Canyon is on fire watch as a hot wildfire burns the dry hillsides along the narrow canyon walls.
Santiago Fire 2007
My sister and her family lived in Silverado for over twenty years and this is the first year in all that time we aren’t watching the news anxious about their personal safety. Last winter they sold their custom-built Victorian house and moved to a parcel of land on Oregon’s Deschutes River. We’re relieved they aren’t in the fire path once again, but sad to see their former home and community in danger.
Damage from fire retardant.
Fire Danger to Family Keepsakes
When we think about the danger of wildfire, we tend to think about losing our belongings to raging flames, but the bigger threat comes from smoke, fire retardant and water damage.
- Paper will quickly absorb smoke odor, and the longer items remain enclosed in a box or sealed environment the harder it will be to remove the smoky smell.
- Homes in fire zones are often treated with a fire retardant gel that brings its own special hazards, corroding copper and metal, staining paint and other surfaces, and killing landscaping. Your heirloom furniture and other keepsakes can be severely damaged if you aren’t home to close windows and remove family heirlooms before the spray hits your house. My sister’s family experienced this first-hand.
- Water from burst plumbing, fire sprinklers or fire hoses can quickly turn a storage area into a water-soaked mess.
Be Prepared for Wildfire
After living in a risky area for so many years, my sister says she actually feels better prepared now than ever before. The last time they evacuated their Silverado home, the family was unable to return for over 14 days and they learned a lot about emergency preparedness during that episode:
- Keep valuables organized and ready to grab in case of evacuation
- Store digital copies offsite at the office or on Cloud storage
- Give your young adult children the originals or copies of any documents they might need like birth certificates
- Know how to contact your insurance agent in case your home is damaged
Store Valuables in a Home Safe
While researching “Your Genealogy Disaster Plan” for the September 2014 issue of Family Tree Magazine I discovered a home storage container with an impressive disaster survival story. The SentrySafe HD4100CG fireproof waterproof home safe is rated for 30 minutes of fire endurance and water submersion. Models come in all sizes and configurations and are available on Amazon and home improvement stores. I spoke with a SentrySafe representative about a suitable size for genealogy materials and she sent me a link to a story about a safe filled with family history research that survived Hurricane Sandy. It’s an emotional video, but brings home the reminder that some things need a bit of extra protection in our everyday life.
When she lived in Silverado, my sister and I often talked about protecting photos and keepsakes from natural disasters. It can be hard to enjoy your family heirlooms if you’re worried about fire or flood, but digital copies stored offsite or on the Cloud are a good backup in case of damage or loss. I don’t live in a fire zone like Silverado Canyon, but I keep some family treasures and digital copies in a fireproof waterproof safe. And I hope I never see that safe sitting in a pile of charred rubble.
Note: I’m providing links to the SentrySafe HD4100CG recommended by the company representative as most appropriate for a small genealogy collection. You can read more about the different models and compare prices at Amazon where I receive a small affiliate fee from orders, or see some models in local stores such as Target, Home Depot, and Lowe’s. The featured model is large enough to hold file folders and a few small items. IMHO, it’s a worthwhile investment.