If you saw a pillar of smoke rising from the forest or brush in your area, would you know what to do? Would you know what information is needed for firefighters to get there and begin suppressing the fire? If you spot smoke here’s what you need to know:
First – Keep yourself safe. Depending on the size of the fire, it may not be wise to try to get a closer
look. Get to a vantage point where you can gather valuable information. Then call 911. A 911 dispatcher will know what questions to ask, but here are some basics to be prepared to answer them.
Location, Location, Location.
- If there is a close address, use that. Intersections of roads or mile markers are also good. If you can’t see any of those then look for landmarks. Estimation of distance is difficult but give it a go. You can give the dispatcher an estimated distance from your address or location and some sort of cardinal, (East, North, etc.) direction.
- What is the color and amount of smoke that you see? The lighter the smoke, the lighter the fuel
is that’s burning. How much is there, a small pillar or a large plume?
- Is it grass, brush or trees? Is it on the ground or in the crowns of large brush or trees.
The need for speed.
- How fast is it moving? Fire folks use terms like smoldering, creeping, and running to describe fire behavior. But saying its moving slow or fast is just fine.
- Is it near or heading towards any structures? This is important because it can change the type of dispatch that is issued and the resources that are ordered up.
The public is often the first eyes and ears on the scene. With good information you can be a valuable resource for dispatchers and firefighters.
All photos: NIFC