Surviving Wildfire - Introduction

What would you do if you had fifteen minutes to leave your home, and you knew it might not be standing when you came back? What would you take? Where would you go? How would you make sure everyone got out safely?

If you lost your home, what would you wish you'd done differently? Could you have done anything to save it? Would you have enough insurance? What's covered, and what isn't? Where would you live? And where do you start when you need to rebuild your life from scratch?

My husband Cory and I learned the answers to all those questions and many more the hard way. Our home in the foothills west of Fort Collins, Colorado burned to the ground one night in April 2011, along with the homes of twelve of our neighbors.

We were better prepared than most. But we were nowhere near as well prepared as we should have been. Or could have been.

Losing your home and everything you own is such a profoundly life-altering experience that even now it's hard for me to find words to describe it. There's just this huge, gaping hole where your life used to be. When people ask if you need anything, it's hard to know what to say. Because you need everything. During those first few terrible weeks our friends and families were the glue that held us together. We would have crumbled without their constant help and support.
When our mental fog began to clear, we decided that since Mother Nature had wiped our slate clean, we'd use it as an opportunity to reinvent ourselves from the ground up. Because looking backwards gets you nowhere.

I agreed to write this handbook because I don't want anyone else to learn their lessons the way we had to. I've spent much of my professional life researching, writing and explaining all sorts of things. So I gathered up and sifted through a bewildering array of materials from all manner of experts so you don't have to. And assembled resources that will help you dig deeper.

With this book you'll learn how to make your home and property as fire-resistant as possible without having to live in a bunker on top of a rock pile. You'll be able to analyze your insurance needs and document your life now, so you'll know you have the right coverage and the right information before you need it. You'll discover practical ways to live more safely and smartly with the threat of wildfire, and what to do when every second counts.

And whether you're one of the unlucky ones whose home has been damaged or destroyed or you just want to know what to expect and how your insurance really works, you'll find information and insights on every aspect of recovery, from who to call first to how to wade through your contents inventory.

I hope you'll find this book useful, practical and eye-opening. More than anything, I hope our story of loss and recovery will motivate you to do what you can now to prepare your home and your life "just in case."