“We’ve had fires, but this is the first one where we’ve lost so many structures,” George Grubb, Judge for Fort Davis

Last shot from side-window of the RV as we were leaving the campground on Sat

We’re 200 or so miles North of Fort Davis today, but still very much occupied by thinking about everything that’s happened (and still happening) back in the Davis Mountains. We’ve been overwhelmed and humbled by the outpouring of comments and well-wishes on the blog, and feel more thankful than ever that we were home and able to get out as easily as we did. I have to give credit to the rangers and local authorities who did an excellent job getting everyone organized and evacuated in time (according to news reports no-one has been injured in the fire).

Unfortunately, things are not done yet. I’ve been anxiously following reports of the fire and blaze as it’s been moving across the mountains. The ultra-low humidity and high winds have apparently sparked over 19 fires across SW Texas, many of which are still burning today (see this morning’s news reports HERE and HERE). The Fort Davis fire (also being called the “Rock House” fire, the site from which it originated) has burned upwards of 80,000 acres, but is finally coming under some level of control (as of 11AM today it was reported 40% contained HERE). According to the news reports flames entered the State Park, which matches what we heard from the last RVers leaving the campground. but did not burn any structures there, so the Park at least has avoided major damage. Overall, however, it’s been a devastating few days for the locals and heavy work for the fire crews. My deepest thoughts go out to all of them.

The spectacular Davis Mountains & site of the fire

The whole experience has also brought up both a lot of questions and thoughts about emergency safety. I have to admit we’re still rather in shock over the whole thing and especially at how *quickly* it happened. There was only ~1 hour between “get ready” and “get out”, and I can’t help thinking what would have happened if we weren’t there or aware of what was going on. Several comments on the blog and forums yesterday have made me think about things we might do differently in the future and I felt it was worth sharing those ideas here.

1/ Having the RV Emergency Ready – We helped a couple at the parking lot in Kent who had made it out of the campground on fumes. They were almost empty on gas and hadn’t thought to fill up since it was only 3 miles to town. This got us thinking about gas, water and other emergency equipment. Being an RV we’re self-contained and ready to survive just about anywhere, but we do need to have the basics ready. We rarely let our gas tank go below 1/2 (~50 gallons = ~350-500 miles of driving), and I think this is a good precaution. We also always keep at least 1/3 tank of fresh water in our tank (~33 gallons). We do also have an emergency medical kit (for both ourselves and our pets) as well as food and tools. I think all of these items are critical.

2/ Moving the RV in an Emergency Situation – We typically take ~40 mins or so to get the RV moving when we leave a spot. A lot of what we do wouldn’t be necessary in an emergency and we’ve talked about how to cut that time down. If needed we can leave behind campground equipment, pile inside items on the bed (eliminating the need to put them away), and leave the car unhooked. If pressed, I believe we could get going in 10 minutes, just enough time to secure the animals, pull in the slides, raise the jacks and leave. It’s worth having this plan ready.

We need to get an Emergency Alert Radio

3/ Remaining Aware of Emergencies  – We realized yesterday that we really have no adequate warning system in the RV for emergency situations. If we’re boondocking, or away for the day we simply wouldn’t know. The National Weather Service (NWS) prepares and produces Weather Radio broadcasts, including emergency alerts and you can buy receivers that access and warn about public alerts. This is something we need. Read more HERE.

4/ Emergency Pet Preparedness – What would we do if our pets were in the RV in an emergency and we were not there? I’m not clear that I have a firm, comforting answer for this. Some people put pet and contact information on the rig (e.g. on the front door), so they can be contacted in an emergency. I think this is a good suggestion and could be enough in some cases. Others leave the rig door open for access with a “save the pets” sign. I’m conflicted on this idea since I think it leaves the rig too exposed for crime, but I can understand why some do it. Others will leave details with the front office with instructions for how to smash the windows and get in. This idea has merit too.

You can never prepared for all emergencies, but these past few days have certainly made us think about how to be ready in a better way. If you have more ideas feel free to share them in the comments. In the meantime I’ll leave you with a few more pictures of the gorgeous Davis Mountains and hope you’ll share me in sending thoughts to the people and fire-crews in SW Texas still battling the fires over there.

Polly takes in the view at the Davis Mountains. We worry about our pets in an emergency

View from the top of the trail near the State Park Campground. This very hill was apparently on fire as the last RVer left.

Golden hills and sky

Sweeping views

19 Responses to Updates & Thoughts on the Fort Davis Fire

  1. hobopals says:

    I came down through the fires in Idaho last year. They were in secluded forest areas, but I checked at each ranger station as I came through (they advised where the next one would be as I traveled, and whether I could continue or had to turn around). It made me think just as you’re thinking, now.

    I have always carried several cases of bottled water in the bed of my truck aside from my fresh water tank, and in the back of our jeep when we had the motorhome. I have a first aid kit. I never leave my pup, but I know that’s not always an option for everyone. I’d rather lose all my world possessions than to lose him. I have a weather radio and I also have a personal locator for safety and rescue purposes. http://tinyurl.com/42q42ko I’m sure you can buy one cheaper than at Amazon. It gave me peace of mind-it’s easy to carry. My personal opinion is that it and the radio are the two single most important pieces of equipment I have on the trip. I know of several instances where a personal locator would have saved lives. One was the people on Mt. Hood, who died a couple of years back, and another one is the husband of the couple who took a wrong turn near Grants Pass, OR. I’m sure there are many more.

    I think GPS is a safety item, as well, as in a panic it gives verbal instructions, but most also have detour routes that are available. I have a fully equipped 1st aid kit (back pack) that I can grab and run with-it also has water in it, water sanitizing tablets, matches in a metal container, wool socks, the usual first aid equipment, a jar of peanut butter and food bars, heat packs, panty hose, boots for my pup(s), etc., etc.- I know, maybe overkill, but I insisted on having this type of thing with us even when my husband and I traveled in our motorhome with two dogs.
    Reading the articles about the Ft. Davis fires, it broke my heart to hear about the cattle who were burned alive, but it makes one realize just how fast fire can travel.
    Stay safe. Sorry for rambling on, but hope you and many others will consider buying a personal locator. (no affiliation with any locator company)

    • libertatemamo says:

      Hobopals,
      The idea of a personal locator is a great! I used to carry one years ago when I did backcountry backpacking, but haven’t thought of it since we moved into the RV. I think it’s an excellent suggestion. Thanks for the comment.
      Nina

      • hobopals says:

        I knew I was going to be in so many isolated places, alone, that it seemed worth the cost to have the peace of mind, libertatemamo. I was watching a program just last night on “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” about a woman who got lost in the grand canyon. She almost died, but was able to find some water. Still lost she tried to climb out of the canyon, and in so doing, she dropped the only water she had. She was lucky she was in good shape and that she was close enough to the top to be found in time by other people. It could have gone the other way–a personal locator surely would have been handy! There’s no way I could have climbed up the cliffs that she did.

  2. jjcruisers says:

    We were at Balmorhea State Park just off I-10 east of Kent on Friday night and drove through Kent on Saturday morning and saw the abandoned gas station where you evacuated to. We were driving through El Paso and up through Las Cruces NM on Saturday through ferocious winds. It is scary to think of the possibility of being trapped by wildfire. It certainly crossed my mind on Friday night and Saturday. Thanks for your emergency suggestions. We are glad you are safe.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yeah, the winds were pretty hairy on our drive down from Davis Mountains. Unfortunately those winds have really fueled the fires. Very happy to hear you guys are clear of the danger now too.
      Nina

  3. kayjulia says:

    I would at to the list a cell phone kept on you and having the cell number on the outside of your rig by the door so someone notifying people of the danger can call you and tell you have to evacuate. Cell phones don’t always work but they have saved lives.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Kayjulia,
      Yes, cellphone always at the ready. It’s a good point and an important thing to remember.
      Nina

  4. hobopals says:

    I’m so used to having a cell phone on me at all times, that I didn’t think about it. I guess it would be safe for each person to have one, kayjulia.

  5. If you are required to take a lot of prescriptions, try to keep them all in a single place, in case you djn’t have the 10 minutes to get your rig ready to travel. One thought is to keep a travel pack by the exit door, with at least a few days worth of all Rxs. Do we do that? No, but we know we oughta!

    • libertatemamo says:

      The travelpack is a great idea. We used to have one back when we lived in CA (earthquake safety, you know) and never really thought of making one for the RV. I’ll have to think about what to put in it and where to keep it, but I like the suggestion! Thanks!
      Nina

  6. Bob McLean says:

    I had heard of the idea of a “weather radio”, but never really considered it anything more than the way some nerdy types have police scanners. That might possibly rankle the odd person here or there. Note double meaning of the term “odd”….
    *ahem* (possibly on thin ice there)
    Anyway, there was an entry a while back by a fellow who has a blog having to do with airstreams, …well, among other things.
    Haven’t heard back as to just how it performs, but these folks are seasonal RV types, so I’m sure they’ll be taking it along this summer.
    Here’s the link…
    http://longlonghoneymoon.com/2011/01/05/video-midland-wr300-weather-radio

    My html is pretty flippin' weak, so usually unless I can simply copy and paste something, your guess is as good as mine whether it will work or not. You may need to copy and paste that link into your browser.

    I think my daily biggest fear is that of getting locked out. Our apartment is like Fort Knox. Seriously, I make it a habit of stopping, with foot still firmly wedged in the doorway, and looking directly at my keys…Are they in my hand? Yup. Carry on.
    Apparently there are people you can call to get you in in an emergency. I'd rather not go there.

    Happy Motoring.
    :)

    Bob.

  7. Rene says:

    Wow. So glad all of you made it out OK. That’s so scary. We were evacuated last year in a flash flood alert and had about 30 minutes, which flew by like seconds. It was stressful and horrible trying to hook up the 5th wheel in the dark, in the rain, and we almost left it behind. We will never forget it.

    As for your List, yes, get those things. And prepare an evacuation list as well as one bag that contains vital things like passports, extra undies, drugs and dog stuff. We learned our lesson after that evacuation and thankfully haven’t needed to execute that strategy again.

    When it comes to leaving our dog in the rig, we just don’t do it. If he can’t be somewhere we can, we just find something else to do, precisely because of situations like this. It’s a small price to pay for their unconditional love.

    So glad you’re alright. Scary stuff. Glad we opted to head to the snowbound north (sort of).

    • libertatemamo says:

      Rene,
      Wow…a flash flood. That is definitely scary stuff. So glad you guys made it out OK!
      Thanks for the comment and the idea of the bag. Several people brought that one up and it makes total sense.
      Nina

  8. Candace says:

    A “bailout bag” …. something I hadn’t thought about either … until THIS week. 2 blogs I read faithfully are talking about this very issue. I don’t need a 3rd kick in the you-know-what to put one together.

    My favorite RV book author, Jaimie Hall Bruzenak, recently posted on her blog about a current discussion — Do YOU have a BAILOUT BAG ?

    http://blog.rvlifestyleexperts.com/2011/04/rv-lifestyle-ezine-do-you-have-a-bailout-bag.html

    • libertatemamo says:

      Candace,
      I think the “bailout bag” is definitely worth doing. Don’t know why I never thought about it (always used to have one in CA for the earthquakes).
      Thanks for the link!
      Nina

  9. [...] remain dangerous (see news HERE and HERE). The experience has given us much food for thought about how to prepare better for emergencies, and we’ve gotten lots of useful and important tips from comments on the blog which [...]

  10. Sandie Dixon says:

    Great blog and comments. I have most of those items in place. It’s the dog situation that also has me concerned. We also have a card that we keep in the truck with us that tells where we are parked and our son’s name and phone number and the fact that we have two dogs in the motor home.

    Another thing we keep with us, is a 30 day supply of freeze dried food. We carry extra water in the truck so we could survive for awhile.

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