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Update On Forest Fires

July 21, 2014

Carlton Complex Fire:

The Carlton Complex Fire in the Methow Valley area of north central Washington State started last Monday after four smaller fires, sparked by lightning, grew into a large blaze. The fire was estimated at around 238,000 acres on Sunday with zero percent containment. Fire crews estimate as many as 150 homes have been destroyed, but caution the number could be higher. With cooler weather moving into the area at the start of this week, crews are hopeful Mother Nature could help bring some relief. This relief map image, taken from PropertyEDGE, shows how the fire has expanded (black lines are the previous perimeter, and the orange lines are the current fire boundaries):

Carlton Complex Fire as of 7/21/2014

Carlton Complex Fire as of 7/21/2014

Phone services are down in many areas, including Winthrop, Twisp, and Pateros. Winthrop and Twisp are also under Level 2 evacuation orders, meaning residents should be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice.  For more information on how you can help, please contact the Red Cross (local news station King 5 has partnered up with them, click here to learn more).

Chiwaukum Complex and Mills Canyon Fires:

Other fires are also burning along Highway 2 near Leavenworth and Chelan. Below is the latest information from PropertyEDGE. Information is updated by the US Forest Service.

Leavenworth and Chelan Area Fires as of 7/21/2014

Leavenworth and Chelan Area Fires as of 7/21/2014

Oregon Forest Fires:

The following is an aerial of forest fires burning near Mt Hood in Oregon:

Mt Hood Area Forest Fires as of 7/21/2014

Mt Hood Area Forest Fires as of 7/21/2014


WSRB would like to extend our most sincere and heartfelt thank you to the over 2,000 firefighters working long, hard hours to protect homes and contain these fires, and to the crews coming from surrounding states to help.

It is an exhausting, difficult, dangerous, and at times thankless, job. We appreciate your efforts!


For more information on forest and brush fires and how you can help prevent them, check out these articles!

April Marks the Start of Wildfire Season

Tips to Prevent Brush Fires

For more information on the Carlton Complex Fire, click here.

Check out our website for more information on PropertyEDGE and how you can get access to these forest and brush fire maps, updated by the US Forest Service, or contact Tracy Skinner at 206.273.7146.


Article by: Kristen Skinner, Social Media and Marketing Solutions Coordinator


Tips To Prevent Brush Fires

July 15, 2014

Brush Fire

So we’ve talked a few times about forest fires and how to protect your property from them, but let’s be honest: as residents of Western Washington the idea of a forest fire is pretty remote from our minds, right? It’s something that happens near Chelan or in Spokane County.

And that’s true, isn’t it?

Not so much. Take for instance the brush fire that started along I-5 near Kent a couple of days ago (check out some pictures at KOMO News here). That fire was caused by a broken axle on a vehicle and while it only spread to 1.5 acres, it caused a 7-mile backup along the freeway.  Still nothing like Eastern Washington, but it shows how easily something could start here. In fact in May of 2013 a 60-acre fire burned in the Capitol Forest near Olympia and a 100-acre fire started in Lewis County.

So what precautions can we, in Western Washington, take to help prevent a massive blaze? The same precautions folks elsewhere take! With our heat wave as of late and all the dense vegetation in our area it’s just as important that we act fire-safe.

  • Be sure nothing is dragging from your vehicle. Dragging items, like chains or metal rods, can create sparks which easily ignite dry brush.
  • Don’t throw cigarettes out your car window. Did you know that 90% of wildfires in the United States are caused by humans? Both discarded cigarettes and unattended campfires are the main cause. Lava and lightning only cause about 10% of fires.
  • Report brush fires when you see them. Even if it’s only a small burning patch by the side of the freeway it can quickly grow out of control. Call 911 and let them know the location so fire crews can contain it—don’t just assume that someone else has already reported it!
  • Don’t burn trash in your backyard without the proper permits. This can be especially dangerous during the late summer months when grasses and brush are extra dry. Brush fires don’t even have to touch the ground to spread. Just igniting the tips of grass can quickly spread a fire.

Brush fires can occur just about anywhere given the right fuel load and dry conditions. Using a little bit of extra caution can go a long way in helping to prevent fires!

Interested in tracking or locating current or historic wildfire or large brush fire information? Our PropertyEDGE program now incorporates a live and historic fire overlay, updated every time the government updates their maps! To learn more, contact Tracy Skinner at or by phone at 206.273.7146!


Article by: Kristen Skinner, Social Media and Marketing Solutions Coordinator

Summer Travel Safety Tips

July 10, 2014



Summer is upon us! If you’re like me, you’ll be taking at least one trip at some point in the next three months (Helena, Montana, here I come!). In 2012 59% of Americans and said they planned to travel at least once during the summer months, and in 2013 that number rose to 66%. With over half of us on the road or taking to the skies, staying in hotels, and eating in restaurants, we thought we’d share some safety trips for your vacation!

The last thing you want to think about while enjoying time away from the office is fire safety, but accidents do happen. Check out these tips to keep your family safe:


  • Try to stay in hotels with fire sprinklers and/or smoke detectors. Sprinklers are mandated for hotels in many American cities, but not hotel roomall. If you’re too embarrassed to ask when making the reservation, or trying to make reservations online, look in the pictures on the booking website. The hotel picture to the right was taken from a booking website and clearly shows a fire sprinkler in the living area.
  • Know where the nearest exits are. We’ve mentioned before that when an emergency happens people are most likely to exit through the same door they entered. Standing in the hallway outside your hotel room, locate the exits. If you’ve predetermined multiple exit routes you’ll be more likely to consider or use one of them if a fire should happen.
  • If a fire does happen, use the stairwell to exit the building.
  • Don’t hang things off of the fire sprinkler! To many people these seem like an excellent place to hang a coat or the suit you want to wear the next day. This can knock the sprinkler head off the pipe and set off the sprinkler head!
  • If you hear the fire alarm, exit the building. This may sound silly, but it seems to be a habit to call the front desk and tell them that the alarm is going off, rather than heeding its warning.


  • If you plan to drive while overseas, be sure you have an International Driving Permit if it’s required.
  • Check your insurance! Most insurance will cover drivers in the US and Canada but not elsewhere. Find out if you need additional coverage when you go overseas or if you’re driving in Canada or Mexico.
  • Find out how your insurance and credit cards cover you if you have to rent a car. If your credit card does not have rental protection, consider buying the Collision Damage Waiver offered by most car rental places. Chances are you won’t need it, but if you do happen to get into an accident this, in most cases, will protect you from paying for the entire value of the car.
  • Don’t leave valuables visible in your car. This can be especially difficult if you’re leaving your car parked in the hotel parking lot overnight, but there’s no reason to give thieves extra incentive.
  • Buckle your seatbelts!
  • Never throw a lit cigarette out the car window. It’s amazing how many forest and brush fires are started by a carelessly discarded cigarette.


  • Notify your bank that you will be traveling. If random activity appears on your credit card they may put a hold on your account and leave you without access to money.
  • Have small amounts of cash on you in case you’re traveling somewhere where credit cards aren’t accepted or in the event that your credit cards are shut down or stolen.
  • Don’t keep large amounts of cash all in the same place! Hide your money in several places so if your luggage or wallet is stolen you’ll still have access to money to get you by until everything can be replaced.
  • Leave photocopies of your itinerary, flight and hotel information, credit cards, passport, etc. with a trusted family member or in a safe deposit box that a relative has access to. If you are stranded somewhere or your wallet and passport are stolen things will be replaced much faster if you have copies of all of the information.
  • Know where the nearest US Consulate or Embassy is. Once again, if the worst happens they will be your first and possibly best resource to help you recover information and get home.



  • yellowstone

    Yellowstone National Park

    If you’ll be camping this summer be aware of fire danger levels and burn bans. Nearing the end of summer when grasses and forests dry out, campfires become much more of a fire safety issue.

  • Build campfires where they won’t spread – away from dry leaves and grasses.
  • Keep enough water nearby so you can completely douse your campfire before you leave. Also shovel dirt over it to help completely snuff the flames. Once you’ve put water on it and shoveled it, stir it again and add more water to it. You want to diffuse the heat and cool it off enough that it won’t reignite.
  • Never leave your campfire unattended.


Let’s face it, I write blogs all the time about how to be safe and cautious in your environment, but that doesn’t mean that I’m the annoying Safety Commandant when I’m vacationing with my family and friends (ok, maybe a little). By knowing a few simple hints and pieces of advice you can be safe in your situation and, equally as important, have fun!


Article by: Kristen Skinner, Social Media and

Tracy’s Thoughts: Vendors and Conventions

July 8, 2014

Subscriber Services Manager Tracy Skinner at the PIA Oregon Agents Expo

Throughout my career I’ve attended a good number of conventions and other meetings as a vendor. I set up my booth and talk about WSRB and other topics like golf. OK, mostly golf.

I like to wander about from time to time because I am curious and my feet hurt if I stand still too long. Every show I learn something new on how to display, how to talk to folks, and generally how to do a better job.  The best part of a show is seeing old friends, talking about what we can do and seeing the strength of the insurance agent. If you are an agent at a trade show, the basics do not change.

While I am no expert at the vendor show, I have noticed a few things that can’t be helpful. To display at one of these is not cheap, so being there means you really need to get some value.  Here are a couple basic things that I think hurt:

  1. Having the table in between you and the folks. This is a barrier. It is easy to walk by you and the table promotes your stuff over you. Insurance is a relationship business—put the table behind you and talk to people. After all, it’s why you are there.
  2. Sitting down behind the table that you are using as a barrier. This always looks to me like “the whole thing is a drag, can we please get it over with?” Or “take a pen and move on please. “
  3. Head down in a phone, computer or whatever. This can be softened if the booth person would raise their arm, wave at the SWAG (stuff we all get) and say, “Take whatever you want.” The personal touch helps.

Every booth gives away SWAG and brochures. The brochures are instant trash. I read one place that said don’t even bother, just bring business cards. As to SWAG, I have no suggestions here. You have to have stuff or people think you are cheap, but in reality, most of it ends up in the back of a desk drawer. We give away rubber ducks. What do they have to do with a Rating Bureau? I have no idea but folks love them! One outfit gives out $2 bills. That always works and you can see that I remembered. Scotch or wine might have the same affect but probably not a great idea.

So, my view on this is that you are there to meet people who one day may need what you do. Get out from behind the table. They probably are not going to buy anything that day so don’t worry about the brochures and other things. Put that stuff in back of you or to the side.  Oh, and enjoy yourself! People can tell, and anyway, you are with a great group of folks.


Our new series, Tracy’s Thoughts, is a once-monthly smorgasbord of thoughts from our Subscriber Services Manager, Tracy Skinner. Topics will range from vending at conventions, to the importance of insurance, and beyond! We hope you enjoy Tracy’s thoughts and stop by for more! 


Article by: Tracy Skinner, Subscriber Services Manager

The 4th Of July Is Almost Here!

June 30, 2014

FireworksIt’s almost time to close up shop for a day (be sure you check out our 4th of July business safety tips before locking the doors!), fire up the barbecue, and enjoy the (hopefully sunny) day! To help make sure you’re fully prepped we thought we’d pass along some 4th of July fun facts, recipes, and fireworks safety tips. Read on for more!



Fun Facts:

  • The US Government estimates that 2.5 million people lived in the United States in July of 1776.
  • According to TIME Magazine, more hot dogs are consumed in the US on 4th of July than any other day…over 155 million of them! For those of you who don’t want to do the math, that would be 62 hot dogs per person in 1776.
  • Benjamin Franklin once argued that the US symbol should be a turkey instead of a bald eagle.
  • Three United States Presidents have passed away on July 4th: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both passed away on July 4, 1826, and James Monroe in 1831.

Safety Tips:

  • Drive safely! July 4th ranks as the deadliest day on the road and second only to New Year’s Day for most drunk-driving related fatalities! Please make sure you have a designated driver, especially as this year’s holiday falls on a Friday, meaning more people will be out partying than normal.
  • If you live in a city or fire district that allows fireworks, be smart! An average of 240 people per day go to the emergency room in the month surrounding July 4th for fireworks-related injuries.
    • Avoid buying amateur fireworks or ones in brown paper bags. Brown-bag fireworks are generally made for professional shows and can be much more dangerous.
    • Keep water or a hose ready and available when lighting fireworks, and don’t shoot them off around trees.
    • Sparklers cause the most fireworks-related injuries. Be sure to supervise children who are using them and keep a bucket of water handy to put them out.
    • 33% of fireworks injuries happen in adults between 25-44 years old, and 57% of injuries happen to men.
    • In 2011 an estimated 17,800 fires were reported, with 1,200 of those being to structures and 16,300 happening outdoors.

Check out this Public Service Announcement from the NFPA for more information on fireworks safety! And for more information about fireworks laws in Washington State check out

Lastly, how about a few kid-friendly recipes to help your family enjoy the day!

Lastly, are you looking for a public fireworks display for the family? Check out this list from KOMO News!


Article by: Kristen Skinner, Social Media and Marketing Solutions Coordinator

Common Home Fire Sprinkler Questions Answered

June 20, 2014

At WSRB we are committed to reducing losses caused by fire. While we focus most of our business activities on property, we also know that saving lives when a fire occurs is even more important. We’ve discussed home fire sprinklers on our blog before (check out the article here!) but some people have wanted to know more. Are they truly effective? How do they work? Won’t the flood damage cost more than the fire damage? Can my roughhousing kid knock a sprinkler head off and flood my home?Home Sprinkler

So, first question: are they truly effective? Yes! Check out this fact sheet from the Washington Sprinkler Coalition. Up to 90% of home fires can be contained with just one sprinkler head, and you are 80% less likely to die in a home fire when sprinklers are present.

Second, how do they work? Hollywood will have you believe that to activate a sprinkler system, you must pull some kind of lever on the wall or that smoke from cigarettes (or bad cooking) will deploy every sprinkler in the home and flood all of your belongings, as well as yourself. Not exactly true. Sprinkler heads in all residential, and almost all commercial, applications only go off one at a time (there are exceptions to this in a few commercial systems). When a fire starts the heat will rise to the ceiling. Sprinkler heads have glass bulbs filled with fluid, and when the fluid gets warm it will expand, eventually breaking the glass. A type of stopper plug will then fall out of the sprinkler head, allowing water to come through the newly created hole to be dispersed by the sprinkler head. Only one head will deploy and, as we discussed above, should be enough to contain the fire. If the fire does happen to overwhelm the sprinkler head, the next nearest head will deploy when the heat rises and builds in that area.

Third question: will the flood damage from the sprinkler cost more than the fire damage? Probably not.  Consider this: If a fire starts in your home, perhaps on the stove, and you’re able to put it out with a regular portable fire extinguisher, it won’t get hot enough to activate a sprinkler head. Second scenario, let’s say you start that stove fire, it quickly grows too big to be put out with a portable extinguisher, and you don’t have a sprinkler system. You’ll call 911, the fire department will arrive, and they will flood your home with perhaps as much as 100 gpm (gallons per MINUTE) of water. So your insurance will not only cover the fire and smoke damage, but the water damage as well.  If your fire department has an average response time of 5 to 10 minutes, this is plenty of time for the fire to grow out of control and perhaps even compromise the stability of your home’s structure. A residential sprinkler system flows about 30 gpm and responds within seconds of the fire starting. Much less water and much less fire/smoke damage.

Last question, and perhaps the most pressing: can my kids accidentally knock the sprinkler head off and flood my home? Yes and no. Home fire sprinkler systems (and commercial ones as well) can actually be built to recess into the ceiling. A flat plate is attached to the bottom of the sprinkler head that drops off after the start of a fire. These sprinklers fit flush with your ceiling and are barely noticeable. Other systems, like the one I have in my home, are a traditional style sprinkler head that sits below the ceiling. You will have to be careful not to knock into these, and you certainly don’t want to hang your laundry, or other items, from the bottom of it.

Want to learn more about home fire sprinklers? The Washington Fire Sprinkler Coalition has a 24-ft trailer to give Washington residents more information about home fire sprinklers. This trailer is used for “live burn and sprinkler demonstrations” and contains other educational materials. Look for the trailer at public events around the state and be sure to stop by when you see it! They’re ready and willing to answer any questions you may have about home fire sprinklers.


Article by: Kristen Skinner, Social Media and Marketing Services Coordinator


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