The Ventura County Fire Department recently developed a set of basic wildfire preparedness guidelines for the oil and gas industry.  Many oil and gas properties border natural areas, have access challenges and assets that are difficult to protect from an advancing wildfire. Their guidelines are titled Ready, Set, Go.

The program is simple:

Ready is before the fire occurs.

The ready checklist includes:

  • Create a wildfire action plan for each site
  • Know your evacuation routes and make sure all important turns are clearly marked
  • Assemble emergency supply kit for all facilities, buildings and vehicles
  • Make sure property address is clearly marked
  • Establish and maintain brush clearance around structures, wells, storage tanks, compressors, traps and other infrastructure
  • Properly mark all storage areas used for chemicals, hazardous materials or explosives
  • Clearly mark water tanks, hydrants, ponds or other water supplies that could be used for firefighting
  • Place directional signs identifying critical locations and at key intersections

Set is as the fire approaches

The set checklist includes:

  • Locate and review evacuation plans and emergency procedures
  • Notify appropriate company contacts
  • Load vehicles with emergency supplies, valuables and essential documents or equipment. Park vehicles facing out, or facing downhill, and be ready to evacuate if ordered
  • Reschedule or cease all “hot works”
  • Account for all personnel on the property, including employees, contractors, vendors and visitors
  • Unlock and/or open gates
  • Move equipment and vehicles to safe zones
  • Close all doors and windows and turn on lights
  • Monitor property for embers and small fires started by embers
  • Monitor radio, television or internet for fire and weather updates
  • Stay hydrated
  • Keep all employees and other personnel on the site informed of changing conditions

Go is evacuation –  leave early

  • Evacuate non-essential employees as early as possible. Evacuate all workers if conditions warrant. Do not wait to see how the fire behaves. Remember: If the facility has been properly prepared, the best thing to do is evacuate and let the firefighters do their job. Severe fire conditions and behavior could prevent firefighters from rescuing those that don’t evacuate.

If you are trapped by fire or unable to evacuate:

  • Boots, gloves, hats, googles and bandanas are good protection against smoke and embers
  • Stay hydrated
  • Patrol building and property for spots fires caused by embers
  • As the main body of fire approaches, take refuge inside a structure, away from outside walls
  • Bring hoses inside to protect them from ember damage
  • Do not go outside until the fire has passed. It will be very hot and uncomfortable inside, but it will be much worse outside
  • If possible, alert other employees to your location and stay in contact
  • After the fire has passed, check roofs and patrol the property to extinguish small fires
  • Call 911 if the fires are too large or there are too many for you to handle

The bottom line is wild fires can be extremely intense and their behavior can be very erratic, so being prepared with a plan like that developed by the VCFD is a good idea.