It is important for everyone in the wildfire-prone Methow Valley to be prepared for an emergency, but especially for the valley’s most vulnerable residents.
Methow At Home, which supports older residents living at home, recently held a Zoom video conference call for its members to help them make plans for the upcoming fire season.
More than two dozen residents joined on the interactive call where they heard recommendations from Grace Butler, preparedness director for Methow Ready, an emergency preparedness program housed under Aero Methow Rescue Services.
Butler outlined five important steps for residents to take before an emergency happens:
• Sign up for the Okanogan County Emergency Alert System on the county’s Emergency Management web page (okanogandem.org) or on the Methow Ready website (methowready.org), Butler advised. “You will be sent pertinent information about your area via text or email, such as burn bans, fire, flood, extreme weather, and currently, COVID-19,” Butler said. Other good sources of information during emergencies are KTRT 97.5 radio and the Methow Valley News Facebook page, she said.
• Be easy to find in an emergency – that means installing reflective address signs. “It will make your property much more visible to first responders in snow, in the dark, in smoke. For fire season it is incredibly important,” Butler said. The numbers can be ordered via a link on the Methow Ready website or on the Okanogan County Fire District 6 website, http://www.okanogancountyfd6.com.
• “Have a plan, share it and keep it visible for yourself and others,” Butler said. The Methow Ready website has a disaster and emergency handbook with a page that can be removed and filled out and posted in some easy-to-find place, like a refrigerator door. The page provides information on family members, a meeting place during an emergency, and people to contact, including out-of-area contacts. “An out-of-area contact is important to establish – someone outside the valley you can rely on and communicate with,” Butler said.
She advised that people write down their addresses and phone numbers and have them readily available. “In the middle of a crisis it’s amazing what you forget,” she said. She also advised planning evacuation routes. “Depending on where you live, there may be multiple options for which way to go.”
• Create an evacuation grab bag, with essential items, critical documents, medications, spare glasses and contact lenses, a perhaps some important mementos.
• Have a spare set of car keys and keep them in a place where you can find them and grab them. Also, keep a headlamp or flashlight next to your bed. “If the power is out and its midnight and you need to leave, you have a way to get out of the house safely,” Butler said.
The Methow Ready website includes a Disaster and Emergency Handbook that can be downloaded and printed, as well as other tools and information about things like creating a disaster supply kit, sources of information during emergencies, how to prepare homes for wildfire, and how to get a home Firewise assessment. If people don’t have internet access, they get materials and information by calling Methow Ready at (509) 449-0069.
Tracy Sprauer, executive director of Methow At Home, said the idea for the Zoom conference grew out of collaboration with Methow Ready, Fire District 6, and the Fire Adapted Methow program. Max Jones of Fire District 6, and Kathryn Heim of the Fire Adapted Methow also joined on the call. Methow Ready recently mailed a packet of information, including the Disaster and Emergency Handbook, to all Methow At Home members to help them prepare for emergencies.
“The population is aging in the Methow,” said Sprauer. “More and more people are aging in place, many without anyone living with them. That’s why what we are doing is so important.”
Methow At Home will host another Zoom video presentation by Max Jones called “Five Ways to Protect Your Home from Wildfire.” The presentation will be held on July 8 at 9:30 a.m. The session is open to everyone, and registration is at http://www.methowathome.org.
USFS update on Methow trails, campgrounds
The Methow Valley Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service, along with numerous partners, has been working on getting recreation sites and trails open for the season. Following is an update on the current status of recreation sites throughout the district.
• Loup Loup and Road’s End Campgrounds – closed due to hazard trees.
• Harts and Meadow Campgrounds – closed due to snow, but likely opening within the week.
• North Summit Horse Camp – improvements underway, closed during construction.
• Early Winters Campground – fully open, including water and facilities.
• All other campgrounds – open but no water.
• Gilbert Trailhead – closed due to hazard trees.
• Washington Pass Overlook – scheduled to open on July 1.
The Forest Service and partner crews have cleared over 120 miles of trail up to the snowline. Some trails that are typically cleared by this time may still have down trees or damage.
• In partnership with the Access Fund, the Forest Service is rebuilding trails and belay stations for climbers at Fun Rocks.
• The district is working with Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance on improvements to the Chickadee Trail, including adding connections and a trail along Coal Creek.
• In partnership with the Methow Valley Trails Collaborative, upgrades and repairs are being made to the Buck Mountain Trail.
District Ranger Chris Furr credited the Washington Trails Association, Backcountry Horsemen, Coulee Riders, and the Northwest Motorcycle Association as instrumental in clearing trails to get them ready for the public to use. For information on specific trails or updates on progress, call 996-4000 or check the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest website.