I’ve been enjoying going through the WP site Living a Sustainable Dream. They are much further along the off-grid journey and I like to see what they have tried and some of their thought processes. I happened upon a post about the fires that the northwest experienced in August of 2015 and it made me think about the idea of living within the possibility of natural disaster.
We live in the prairie, which means we are smack-dab in the middle of acres and acres of dry grass and brittle mesquite trees. Everything around us is extremely flammable for most of the year. Second to that, our spring winds in April are often 30-40 mph sustained with gusts to 65-70 mph. Sometimes they are out of the west, sometimes the north, and sometimes the south.
Our warm seasons bring fire, hail, lightning and tornados to the plains. Like all natural disasters, ours strike at random and often leave amazing paths of utter destruction in their wake.
Although random, sometimes the presence of us humans start that destruction.
2 miles west of our shed is a well-traveled paved road. Rural traffic in this part of the world includes lots of trucks dragging trailers. This is important because these vehicles can cause sparks that create grass fires on the side of the road.
The sparks are from the metal safety chains that run from the trailer to the trailer hitch on the trucks. The chains are sometimes a little too long and drag across the pavement and throw sparks. They don’t always cause fires, but when it happens and the wind is blowing the fires can eat up miles of prairie before they can be put out.
(You can tell the people that live in the prairie-instead of in town-because they’ll be stopped on the side of the road trying to put small fires out with shovel or driving over them so they don’t spread.)
My job is 20 miles north of our shed-I work rurally, 45 miles from a major town. Because of the remote location we have a volunteer fire department on site-which means there’s people wandering around with radios on.
When I’m in my office I can hear the alarm sounds go off on their radios calling for fire department support. We are a close bunch so I can ask them for the fire location. Often what I hear is, it’s in the valley-close to the road. The next question I have is what direction is it moving-how close to my road? The answer always involves which way the wind is blowing.
Several times last year the fire was reported to be within miles of our shed. Each time I’d grab my keys and head home. Not because I could stop a fire or have hope of saving our home if the fire did come, but because I have animals that are penned and I wanted to make sure and get them out of the way if possible.
The thought of Spring always stresses me a little because I begin to think about the possibility of fire. Funny thing is, following the fires is tornado season, and it’s easy for me to worry about a tornado too. 🙂 What it comes down to is I fear losing what we have built. I fear that my animals will be hurt or killed in a fire-that I will come home and all will be flattened from a storm. We, of course, don’t have insurance-you can’t really insure a shed as household. So a loss is a total loss, financially speaking. From a personal stand point, money and structure aside, it would be heart breaking.
My husband and I talk about the possibility of a complete loss from fire, tornado* or any other reason. We have made a pact of when it’s time to leave that we do so without hesitation. We purposely choose to live in a manner that puts us out of the way of city services that might help us in a disaster. We do not have a 911 address because we do not have a power pole or any utilities. We don’t have the ability to put out any sizable fire because we have no running water. The only choice we have in the face of catastrophic loss is to leave and remove ourselves from harm’s way. We have had to leave twice-both times we came back to a home still standing.
Both times I counted us lucky and said a word of thanks that I often forget to say on a daily basis. Day to day, regardless of the weather, when I top the hill and see our tiny home, I breathe a sigh relief. I smile and I laugh a little at how a dusty little shed in the high plains could possibly mean so much.
*Product Suggestion: We watch the tornado warnings on my phone with an app called First Alert-(it’s free and amazing-I can zoom in enough to exactly where the tornados are and which direction they are headed-minute to minute.)