A wildfire might seem like a rare and unusual occurrence, but in fact, they can happen almost anywhere. Wildfires occur most commonly in heavily forested areas during the springtime, but they can happen anytime the ground isn’t completely blanketed in snow.
People, in most cases, are to blame for these dangerous fires. Common causes include:
- Careless burning
- Equipment-related fires, such as off-road vehicles or lawn mowers
Here’s how to be as prepared as possible for this specific type of disaster that can happen in a flash.
Work with your family and local community to develop a wildfire action plan. Your plan should include details on:
Where You’ll Go
If you live in a high-risk area, your family should have a safe place planned. This safe place might be a friend or relative’s house in a lower risk area, an evacuation center or a hotel.
How You’ll Get There
Plan multiple travel routes to each of your safe places. In the event of an emergency, routes can be easily blocked by emergency vehicles or other evacuees.
What You’ll Take
Create a disaster supplies kit and store it in your car or in an easily accessible location. If you have to evacuate due to a wildfire, you should plan to be away from your home for at least three days. Bring a few sets of clothing for each person in your family, along with bottled water and shelf-stable food such as granola bars or trail mix.
All members of your family should know the details of this plan, and you should practice the plan regularly.
Prepare Your Home for Evacuation
When you’ve been alerted that a wildfire is imminent, you’ll need to take quick action to prepare your home for the best possible outcome. Here are some tips to prepare the inside of your home:
- Move flammable furniture away from windows and doors, and into the center of the room
- Remove flammable window shades and curtains, and close any metal shutters
- Shut all your windows and doors, but leave them unlocked
- Shut off gas service at the meter, and turn off all pilot lights inside your home
- Turn off your HVAC unit
- Turn several lights on inside your home so it’s visible to firefighters under smoky conditions
Here’s what you should do to prepare the outside of your home for an evacuation:
- Back your car into the driveway, with all windows up and doors closed
- Bring all flammable items — such as patio furniture, kids’ toys, doormats and trash cans — indoors
- Connect garden hoses to outside water spigots so they’re ready for firefighters
- Leave on outside lights so firefighters can see your home in smoky conditions
- Make sure your emergency kit is in the vehicle
- Move propane grills away from structures, including barns, garages or other outbuildings
- Place a ladder up to your roof in a position that will be seen by firefighters
- Place buckets of water around your house so they’re easily accessible to firefighters
- Seal attic and ground vents with plywood or commercial vent seals
- Turn off all propane tanks
Know How to React
Even with proper advance planning, wildfires can spread quickly and unexpectedly. If you become trapped, the first step toward safety is always remaining calm and calling 911.
Trapped in Your Car
If you have time to move the vehicle, choose to park in an area that’s as free of trees or shrubs. Then, close all windows and vents of your car and lie on the floor of the car, covering yourself with a jacket, blanket or towel.
Trapped on Foot Outdoors
If there’s enough time, seek out an area that’s free of trees or shrubs, taking shelter in a ditch if possible. Wherever you’re forced to shelter-in-place, make sure you lie face down.
Trapped in Your Home
Should your family become trapped in your home, you should:
- Close all doors and windows, but keep them unlocked
- Fill all sinks and tubs with cool water
- Gather your family members and pets together
- Remain inside your home, and stay away from windows and exterior walls
Take Action Now
Because a wildfire can break out anywhere, it’s best to assume it could happen in your community. Establishing (and practicing) a wildfire action plan can ensure your family is prepared.
If you or a loved one need medical attention during a disaster, call 911. If you need care after an event has passed, please visit the emergency room or urgent care location nearest to you.