USA — With smoke from area wild fires tainting the normally fresh Ridge air, there seemed no better time to talk about fire preparedness.
Ridge sixth graders have been learning the dos and don’ts of keeping their family safe in the event of a wildfire. It is all part of a curriculum designed by the Butte County Fire Safe Council, which received a grant from PG&E that supplied educational materials to sixth grade classes.
While some types of kitchen fires and other kinds of fires can be just as dangerous, Pine Ridge teacher Mike Gulbranson told his class Thursday, “We’re going to focus specifically on wildfire in the foothills because this is where you live.”
With that, Gulbranson guided his class through about an hour of instructional material ranging from identifying hazardous vegetation to the geographical makeup of the Ridge, and why the Ridge is especially susceptible to wildfire.
“Fires love elevation,” Gulbranson said, as he described how a fire beginning on the lower part of the Ridge is more likely to travel up the Ridge rather than down.
The students listened intently and were eager to shoot their hands in the air when a question came their way. Taylor Cook, 11, was on point when asked about how trees can catch fire from the underbrush below. She correctly identified the hazard as “ladder fuels.”
She noted that she already knew a lot about wildfires because of a prior class project.
“I learned about ladder fuels when I went on a field trip to a fire station,” she said.
She learned a new term this time around though: Community interface, which is when a community exists in a high fire danger area like the foothills or a forest. In case there is a fire, Cook said the skills she’s learning will help keep her family safe.
Devin Dolph, 11, was busy taking notes as Gulbranson was leading the class though the curriculum. Dolph said he was learning about the nature of fire, how it burns and what fuels a fire.
“Fire needs oxygen to burn and the best fuels are dead trees and grass,” he said.
He said residents can keep their homes safe by raking leaves and clearing the vegetation from the yard that could lead to fire. On Friday, Evergreen 6 teacher Greg Holman helped students memorize the “P’s,” the most important things to remember during evacuations. Priority one is people, he said. If someone only has a short time to evacuate, they need to make sure everyone is out of the home safely. If there is a little extra time, Holman said the next priority is pets. Medical “prescriptions,” important “papers” and favorite “photos” are the next priority, he said.
“You gotta make a plan,” he said.
Dominic Wiggins, 11, knows all too well the importance of fire safety, since his family lost their home in the 2008 Humboldt Fire. Wiggins said the curriculum is helping him understand how the fire happened and is teaching him about finding safe zones in the event that he has to evacuate his home again.
Alyssa Sanders, 11, said she learned what to do in case she sees a fire. “Call 9-1-1 or if an adult is close, tell an adult,” she said.
She also learned about clearing dead plants and trees to reduce the fire danger. She didn’t have an evacuation plan just yet, but she said she was making one.
She said she would like to pass the knowledge to younger students.
“Just be alert when a fire is around you,” she said.
In all, more than 360 sixth grade students at schools in Paradise, Magalia and Forest Ranch will be taught the wildfire safety curriculum. This is the first wildfire education course of its type in the nation and was developed by the Butte County Fire Safe Council in 2005.
Calli-Jane Burch, the council’s executive director, noted that after extensive research, UC Davis chose the council’s program as a showcase for the rest of the nation.
Instructional materials include community evacuation plans, wildland fire pamphlets, local street maps, fire education videos and magnetic packets with emergency and family planning information. The teachers’ manuals include detailed lesson plans, which are in line with state curriculum guides and are arranged for easy use.
The program is supported by community donations and grant funding from Pacific Gas and Electric Company. For more information please visit www.thenet411.net or call 877-0984.