Before a Wildfire
Wildfires can strike quickly and without warning. Prepare in advance to cope and work together.
Create a Family Disaster Plan
- Discuss where to go and what to bring if advised to evacuate.
- Pick two meeting places:
1. a safe distance from your home in case of a home fire.
2. a second place outside your neighborhood in case you can’t return home.
- Choose an out-of-state friend as a “check-in contact” for everyone to call
- Post emergency telephone numbers by every phone.
- Show responsible family members how and when to shut off water, gas, and electricity at main switches.
- Contact your local fire department to learn about home fire hazards.
- Learn first aid and CPR through your local Red Cross chapter.
Put Together an Emergency Supply Kit
- Three-day supply of non-perishable food and three gallons of water per person.
- Map marked with at least two evacuation routes
- Prescriptions or special medications
- Change of clothing
- Extra eyeglasses or contact lenses
- An extra set of car keys, credit cards, cash or traveler’s checks
- First aid kit
- Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
- Sanitation supplies
- Copies of important documents (birth certificates, passports, etc.)
- Don’t forget pet food and water!
PREVENTION: Prepare for Wildfire Emergencies
- Design and landscape your home with wildfire safety in mind. Select materials and plants that can help contain fire rather than fuel it.
- Use fire-resistant or noncombustible materials on the roof and exterior structure of the dwelling, or treat wood or combustible material used in roofs, siding, decking or trim with fire-retardant chemicals evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
- Plant fire-resistant shrubs and trees around the home. For example, hardwood trees are less flammable than pine, evergreen, eucalyptus or fir trees.
- Regularly clean roof and gutters.
- Inspect chimneys at least twice a year. Clean them at least once a year. Keep the dampers in good working order. Equip chimneys and stovepipes with a spark arrester that meets the requirements of National Fire Protection Association Standard 211. (Contact your local fire department for exact specifications.)
- Use 1/8-inch mesh screen beneath porches, decks, floor areas, and the home itself. Also, screen openings to floors, roof and attic.
- Install a dual-sensor smoke alarm on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms; test monthly and change the batteries at least once each year.
- Clear items that will burn from around the house, including wood piles, lawn furniture, barbecue grills, tarp coverings, etc. Move them outside of your defensible space.
Training and Tools
- Teach each family member how to use a fire extinguisher (ABC type) and show them where it’s kept.
- Keep handy household items that can be used as fire tools: a rake, axe, handsaw or chain saw, bucket and shovel.
- Keep a ladder that will reach the roof.
- Consider installing protective shutters or heavy fire-resistant drapes.
Know When to Burn and When Not to Burn
- Know what is permissible to burn and what is prohibited from being burned.
- Attend your burn at all times.
- Have Fire Control tools on hand before starting your burn.
- Watch the Wind. Be prepared to extinguish the fire if winds pick up or the weather changes. Use common sense. Don’t wait for the fire department to contact you to say that it has become unsafe to burn. Most open burning gets out of control during a sudden wind change.
- Don’t wait to call for help. If a fire gets out of control, call the fire department immediately. Use the utmost caution to prevent injury to yourself and others or any fire damage to your home.
- April is usually the worst month for brush fires. Dead grass, leaves and wood from the winter are dangerous tinder. Winds also tend to be strong and unpredictable in April.
- Consider alternatives to open burning. Open burning releases large amounts of carbon dioxide, other gases, and solid substances directly into the air, which can contribute to respiratory problems. Disposal of natural materials is never as good for the environment as using them again in a different form. Tree limbs, brush and other forestry debris can be chipped or composted into landscaping material. Check with your local public works or highway department; many have chippers at the municipal recycling center or transfer station and will process debris from homeowners.
Plan your Water Needs
- Identify and maintain an adequate outside water source such as a rain barrel, small pond, cistern, well, swimming pool, or hydrant.
- Have adequate garden hose to reach any area of the home and other structures on the property.
- Install freeze-proof exterior water faucets on at least two sides of the home and near other structures on the property. Install additional faucets at least 50 feet from your home.
- Consider obtaining a portable gasoline powered pump in case electrical power is cut off.
During a Wildfire
Items to take if time allows:
- Easily carried valuables
- Family photos and other irreplaceable items
- Personal computer information on hard drives and disks
- Chargers for cell phones, laptops, etc.
Always keep a sturdy pair of shoes and a flashlight near your bed and handy in case of a sudden evacuation at night.