How to Stay Safe During a Wildfire
The risk of wildfires is very real to Californians. 2018 was the most devastating year on record for California wildfires. Over 8,000 fires destroyed more than 1.8 million acres and took over 100 lives. Wildfires can spark and spread any time of year, especially when conditions are dry and windy. As a resident of California, learn the best ways to stay safe during a wildfire. Being prepared could save your life.
Never ignore a fire warning in your community. Pay attention to weather forecasts and take warnings seriously. Sometimes evacuation orders come late enough to require immediate departure. Track wildfires in your region and prepare to evacuate at a moment’s notice. Always follow evacuation orders and have your things packed and ready to go. Bring a portable radio with you to help you follow the news as you evacuate. Ignoring fire warnings is a common mistake victims make.
Before a wildfire affects your area, create an evacuation plan so you and your family are prepared. Research the closest evacuation center near you and write down its address. Look up at least two routes to the evacuation center in case the wildfire blocks one of them. Everyone in your family should know how to escape the house and gather at your meeting point in the event of an evacuation. Get in your vehicle and leave immediately upon seeing signs of a fire in your area or getting an order to evacuate.
Take it upon yourself to build an emergency kit in case of a wildfire. The supplies in your kit can help you stay safe if you need to evacuate. Your kit should include first aid supplies, a radio, a flashlight, batteries, a burn kit, nonperishable food items, clean water, medications, a change of clothes, toiletries and supplies for your pets. Keep your kit in your vehicle for a fast getaway. Create your kit well in advance of a fire scare to give yourself time to gather and pack everything you will need. Do not forget to include copies of important documents such as your passport, insurance cards, and marriage and birth certificates.
Leave your house as soon as you receive an evacuation warning or see smoke near you. Have your vehicle packed and backed into its parking spot, headlights on and ready to go. Keep your pets in crates by the front door until you are ready to leave. Try to remain calm and help your family members remain calm as well. Evacuate to your vehicle and keep the windows rolled up for better breathability in smoky conditions. Don’t speed, drive safely to your evacuation center to avoid a car accident and return only once firefighters have declared it safe.
Going back for something you forgot, even something important such as a lost pet, could be fatal in a wildfire. It is critical to stay your course toward the evacuation center once you have departed your home. Returning prematurely during an active evacuation order, even if the fire is still far away, could result in getting trapped in your home or neighborhood and suffering serious injuries. Once a wildfire surrounds you, it can be difficult to find the road or get out alive. Never go back into a burning building for anyone or anything. Instead, call 911 and wait for the fire department to arrive.
Tips Before a Wildfire
Staying safe during a wildfire has a lot to do with preparation. You can take steps right now, when you are not in any wildfire danger, to improve your safety and that of your home and family. Protect your home by trimming back dead shrubs and clearing your lawn of leaves and debris. Avoid planting combustible vegetation. Invest in a fire-safe roof, if possible. Purchase a respirator specifically designed to keep out fire smoke. Plan your evacuation route and what you will bring with you if you have to leave. Know exactly where you are going and prepare to leave as soon as you see signs of a fire in your area or receive an order to evacuate.