By Jo Pugh • 18 August 2023 • 11:15
Call 112 if you see a fire or smell smoke. Credit: GVA112
WILDFIRES are now a reality, and can strike at any moment. From a lightning strike, a discarded bottle or a lit cigarette carelessly thrown from a window, a raging fire can be alight and spread in a matter of moments.
The frightening reality is that it can happen to you. Fire will not avoid a home, and the chances of becoming trapped if you are not prepared or ignore it are high.
Preparation is key.
As catastrophic wildfires continue to increase each year, make sure to protect yourself and your family – plan, prepare and stay aware.
There are apps, websites and social media sources. Make sure you have these apps on your mobile device.
For Andalucia and Valencia, you can download Wildfire Watch Spain on Android and IOS. This app is in English.
For the Valencian community, download GVA112 and navigate to ‘Incidentes’. This is in Spanish.
For the Costa Blanca North, join the Facebook page Marina Alta Fire Alerts – this is monitored constantly and covers from Benidorm to Gandia.
National App – Fireguard Wildfire Tracker – Android or IOS (Payable on IOS) – detects hotspots from space
For social media, make sure you have joined a local town group relevant to your area, these are an invaluable source of information.
The best website for wildfires throughout Europe is Copernicous.
If you see a fire or smell smoke, do not be embarrassed, call 112 immediately. It’s free and multilingual. The emergency services would rather know early.
If a wildfire approaches, your first sign of trouble will be the police or Guardia calling at your home telling you to evacuate, so you need to be ready to go literally in minutes. Prepare your family and home ahead of time for the possibility of having to evacuate. Ensure you have a plan of what to take and where to go.
Ask friends or relatives outside your area if you would be able to stay with them should the need arise, or you will end up in a sports hall somewhere safe.
Designed by Jill Leonard of the Wildfire Watch App, this advice is essential reading. Bookmark our web page or print it.
Make sure you can get to your car easily. If power goes out, can you get into your garage or open your gates? Is there a torch handy and fully charged? Make sure everyone knows the plan and what their individual roles are.
Keep pet carriers, collars and leads readily available to lead pets to safety/get them into vehicles. Make sure you have somewhere to take your pets – friends, family, local kennels. Make arrangements first. If you have horses or farm animals, you’ll need to evacuate them – think how you will do this. Do you have a trailer and somewhere to take them?
1. EMERGENCY FOOD/WATER. Snacks, baby essentials, bottles of water, pet food and pet treats (You may have to use them to calm pets down)
2. PHOTOS: Put all the negatives, CDs or memory sticks of photos in the pack. If there are any special photo albums, put them in too. Or in this day of the digital cloud, store them there.
3. PAPERS: Consider a bank deposit box and put all your important papers in there, just keeping copies at home. If you don’t have a bank deposit box put all your important papers in the Evac-Pack: Insurance policies, Birth and Marriage certificates, I.D/Residencia copies, Passports (or copies), pet passports/documents, house deeds, rental contracts, pension details, health cards/documents (or copies), copies of your bank/credit cards, contracts, guarantees, in fact ANY documents you just know would be an absolute nightmare to replace!
4. PRESCRIPTION MEDICINES: Don’t forget to take your medications with you. Don’t forget the ones that have to be refrigerated like insulin. If you have spare medication put them in the Evac-Pack. (Remember to look at the “use by” date every so often and replace them if necessary!)
5. MONEY: The Evac-Pack is where you would keep an emergency amount of money. You may not be able to use an ATM in the event of a power outage.
6. PETROL/DIESEL: If you can make sure your car always has half a tank of fuel. Evacuation routes could be bumper to bumper traffic. Having a tank at least half filled will keep you less stressed. Also consider having a small amount of cash stashed in the car because again you may not be able to use your card at the petrol station/ATM.
7. ADDRESS/PHONE BOOK: If you don’t have the important addresses/phone numbers stored on your phone then use an address book and keep it in your EvacPack.
8. CHARGERS: Keep them handy to throw in the Evac-Pack at the last minute! Chargers for phones, tablets, laptops etc. If nothing else they will occupy you if you are evacuated to a community centre. If you are evacuated, you may not know what is happening, and there certainly won’t be hundreds of charging points for phones. Consider buying an emergency battery charger, a power bank.
9. EMERGENCY CLOTHES: According to the weather conditions put a change of clothes in the Evac-Pack. If you have babies, remember nappies! Remember to grab your children’s favourite blanket, stuffed animal or toy. A game or a deck of cards would be handy in the Evac-Pack to keep kids occupied and calm too.
10. AN OLD CALENDAR: Handy to have stashed then you won’t forget those important dates! Birthdays, anniversaries etc. These items may be in your phone but if your battery runs down then you can’t get to them.
11. PERSONAL PROTECTION FOR LADIES! Ladies do have “that time of the month”! Be sure and pack a spare box of your preferred protection. It may be hard to find or the shops may be closed if you have been evacuated. Stress can cause our bodies to do strange things too. So be prepared. Take medication for cramps too.
12. BATTERY POWERED RADIO: Worth considering! Tune it into a local radio station which you know is likely to have emergency bulletins.
13. PHOTOS OR VIDEO OF YOUR HOUSE AND CONTENTS. Insurance companies are asking for proof of your belongings and the contents of your property when they are processing a claim. Something we are unlikely to be able to prove unless we have the written or photographic evidence.
14. PATIENCE: This is one of the most important things to pack. Keep it inside of you so that you have a clear calm head. Having your Evac-Pack prepared will help you keep patient. In the event of an evacuation there will be lots of displaced people. Being patient will make things less stressful. Your children need to see you calm and collected. This will help keep them calm too.
If not, fill up a bath or anything handy with water, and put them in there.
If your phone is on Pay as you go, make sure it is topped up.
Julie-Anne Hosking, who was caught in a wildfire, gave the following hint on the Marina Alta Fire Alerts Facebook page “We needed to evacuate some years ago, we are a small urbanisation, passports, insurance documents, photos. Water, food and change of clothes. We keep these as our grab and go bags.
We try to contact neighbours by phone, door knocking and when we leave we sound our car horn”.
Eileen Brown said “All your important documents should be together in one place, ready to be taken with you if you have to evacuate your home. Or stored in a fireproof safe”.
Be prepared, be ready and be safe.
Let us know in the comments box below.
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Jo Pugh is a journalist based in the Costa Blanca North. Originally from London, she has been involved in journalism and photography for 20 years. She has lived in Spain for 12 years, and is a dedicated and passionate writer.
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