A wildfire, the Plutus and some good reads.

thOur house smells of smoke thanks to a wildfire just south of town. The recent unusually sunny and warm weather has left the area ready to burn.

The linked video above shows an uninhabited, mountainous area. Unfortunately the blaze is spreading toward a part of town with wonderful homes – and no utility infrastructure.

That’s the trouble with living in an isolated area: Even if fire trucks can get up there, they can use only the water they brought with them.

Residents are packing their bug-out bags and creating what the fire folks call “defensible spaces” around their homes (e.g., removing trees and mowing down brush) and everyone’s sort of on tenterhooks. I expect even the atheists are praying for a downpour right about now.

Down here on the flats I’m feeling sad for anyone in the fire’s path and also experiencing a bit of survivor’s guilt. Our house lot is mostly treeless; if fire broke out in tree-heavy areas nearby, we have two hose hookups that would let us squirt out any embers that blew our way.

Thanks to the city water system we’d have a steady supply. One of us could be on the ground watching for hot spots and the other on the roof to protect the shingles. Since this is a one-story house it would be a simple scramble up the ladder; DF does this every year when he sweeps the chimney.

Right now I’m praying (for real) for rain.


Authorities are pretty sure this blaze was sparked by lightning. Still, it’s a visual, visceral reminder to be super-double-careful with cigarettes, burn barrels and anything else involving open flame. Smokey the Bear was right.


Some good reads

The NerdWallet website put up an awesome post that could save you or someone you know from a world of financial hurt. “Payday loans: How they work, what they cost” provides a clear analysis of this awful service – and it provides some workarounds, including a link to a list of alternative programs in nearly two dozen states. Bookmark this article.

My former MSN Money colleague MP Dunleavey published a funny and pointed piece on Time magazine’s website. “Ask yourself these questions before you tap your emergency fund” is just what it sounds like: a reminder that an EF isn’t fun money. Specifically, it’s not “your personal money piñata” (love that image) to be whacked open for just any reason.

My daughter recently contributed a guest post to the Counting My Spoons blog. In it she discusses some of the ways that people with chronic physical or mental conditions can get control of their dollars.

“Even many healthy people find frugality overwhelming,” she writes. “So what chance to the chronically ill have? A pretty good one, actually. It just takes some tweaks.”

Some of those tweaks are straight from her book, “Frugality For Depressives: Money-Saving Tips For Those Who Find Life A Little Harder.” You can get it through that Amazon link or directly from Abby’s website, I Pick Up Pennies.

(And if you can leave a comment on the Counting My Spoons post? So much the better!)

Also speaking of my daughter: Nominations are open for the annual Plutus Awards and I hope you’ll suggest “Frugality For Depressives” under the “best book about personal finance” category. Note: When I did this it seemed that “best book” was mentioned twice; the first mention required a URL and the second one didn’t.

Naturally I put in the URL and also typed the book title in the second box. That goes under the “hypervigilance” section of my PTSD. Cast your own votes here.

If you follow other PF blogs you might want to nominate them in categories like “best blog about debt,” “best entrepreneurship blog,” “best frugal travel blog” and “best military blog.” As long as I’m making suggestions: I nominated Liz Weston for the “lifetime achievement” award. Just sayin’.

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  1. Fire pump set up next to our 5000 gal tank. gated wye at garden fence to hook up the inch and a half hose. One for either side of the house. Although we have utilities it is common for the fire department to have them shut off for safety. Then of course no one has water pressure as we are all on our own wells. I’ll probably be out on a firetruck, so my poor hubby will be trying to protect the home front. 40 years firefighting experience, but not a spring chicken anymore.
    Hope you neighbors all stay safe. You can rebuild, but can can’t always repair and can’t replace humans.

    • Donna Freedman

      Some of the folks interviewed today have water tanks, too. Still…If they have to evacuate they will because, as you said, they can’t replace lives.

  2. Hi Donna,
    I hope you get (real) rain! We could use it too – but no fires here, just crazy dry for us. We will be thinking of all of you. Looking forward to reading tapping the emergency fund article too! Your daughter has had a rough go of it lately and she certainly deserves some kudos. Thanks for sharing how we can help her.

    • Donna Freedman

      Thank you, Vicki. In fact, thanks to everyone who has supported her and Tim emotionally — and financially, by buying her book! Some of you guys have even posted reviews on Amazon, which is greatly appreciated.

  3. Catseye

    We’re having an unusual amount of rain for summer in Arkansas. Sure wish I could send some your way. Every time it rains I’m afraid the electricity will get knocked out again and the recent 3 days without it was a pain-in-the-tucus.

  4. The fire scares me. I live in a part of the United States where temperatures can get well into the 100s. It has been raining a lot but still goes back to the 100 degree weathers soon enough. Good thing you got out safe and sound!

    • Donna Freedman

      Fortunately I don’t live in the fire’s path. Even more fortunately, the blaze seems to be more or less under control — or at least no closer to the populated area, even though it spread to 800 acres the last time I checked. It’s also been raining pretty steadily, thank goodness, so even if it doesn’t actually douse the fire it’ll make sure the duff is good and wet so it’s less likely to spread. (Or at least that’s what non-firefighter me thinks.)

      We could still smell smoke yesterday morning, even though it was raining, but by midday we couldn’t. Fingers crossed.

  5. Hi Donna, I too am hoping you get rain! I remember when we lived in Colorado and our home was only a mile or so away from the Black Forest fires! Was scary stuff!

    Passive Income Dude

  6. It’s a day late & a dollar short to clear defensible space around a structure when a fire is bearing down on you. If you’re going to live in the sticks, you unfortunately need to keep the shade trees away from the house from the moment the house is built.

    Even that’s no guarantee, though.

    Daydreaming about Yarnell, I’ve wondered if you couldn’t install the tubing and sprinkler heads for a plain old Home-Depot-style sprinkler system on the roof, so you could just flip a switch and turn it on to spray water over the roof.

    Trouble is, you’d have to maintain it — check it, get up there and keep it repaired. And come the evil day, you’d have to have enough pressure to run it, which would probably mean you’d need to have electric power…not a given, under those circumstances.

    Glad you’re getting a little rain!

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