Here are some things to consider doing. Some items may not be applicable to you.

Wildfires / Brushfires

In the U.S., an average of 1.2 million acres of woodland are burned every year and over four out of five wildfires are caused by people, according to ready.gov

If you live in an area near vegetation which could catch fire:

As soon as possible, and, for some items, regularly:

  • Develop an evacuation plan (early evacuation is the best way to avoid death or injury):
    • Decide on normal and alternative escape routes
    • Identify areas with little or no vegetation or other fuels where you could ride out the wildfire if you don’t have time to evacuate
    • Decide on a place in your immediate neighborhood and one place outside your neighborhood (e.g., friend’s house in another town) where your family will meet when able
    • Decide on methods of communication in the event members of your family are separated, e.g., checking in with a friend or relative in another area as soon as feasible (an out-of-town contact might be best)
    • Decide who should do which tasks (e.g., collecting certain critical items) before evacuating and/or during an emergency
    • If you do not have a car, plan an alternate means of evacuating
    • Plan for care for your pets in the event you go to a public shelter but they won’t permit animals other than service animals
    • Ask about emergency plans at places where your family spends time, e.g.: work, daycare, school. If there are no plans, consider offering to help create one.
  • Take a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) class from your local Citizen Corps chapter

  • Put together an emergency survival kit so you can be self-sufficient for at least three days after an emergency, in case help doesn’t arrive and you’ve lost electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment and/or phone service, e.g. (from ready.gov):

    • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
    • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
    • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
    • Flashlight and extra batteries
    • First aid kit
    • Whistle to signal for help
    • Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
    • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
    • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
    • Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
    • Local maps
    • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
    • Prescription medications and glasses
    • Medical supplies
    • Infant formula and diapers
    • Pet food and extra water for your pet
    • Cash or traveler’s checks and change
    • Important family documents such as driver’s license, Social Security card, proof of residence, copies of insurance policies, wills, deeds, birth and marriage certificates, bank account records and tax records in a waterproof, portable container
    • Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or information from www.ready.gov.
    • Sleeping bag or warm blanket, and, a pillow for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
    • Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.
    • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
    • Fire Extinguisher
    • Matches in a waterproof container
    • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
    • Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels
    • Paper and pencil
    • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children
  • Reduce the chances of your house catching fire by doing the following to your house and the area within at least 30-100 feet (100 feet recommended if your house is in a pine forest) around your home and fence:

    • Keep it as clear as feasible of flammable items, e.g.:
      • Wood structures
      • Dry trees and brush
      • Stacks of firewood
    • Use plants (e.g., fire resistant shrubs and trees) and materials which will help contain a fire rather than fuel it (hardwood trees are less flammable than pine, evergreen, eucalyptus or fir trees)
    • Trim branches including pruning to at least 15 feet above the ground
    • Ensure a 15-foot space between tree crowns
    • Remove dead branches which extend over the roof
    • Clean roof and gutters
    • Reduce density of surrounding forest
    • Maintain an irrigated greenbelt
    • Mow/clear dry grass, weeds and other flammable vegetation regularly
    • Remove dead limbs, leaves, twigs, litter, etc.
    • Ensure your driveway provides adequate access for firefighters
    • Use fire resistant or non-combustible materials on the roof and exterior structure of your house
    • Treat wood and combustible material used for roofs, siding, decking or trim with UK-approved fire-retardant chemicals
    • Consider enclosing overhanging eaves and decks
    • Prune tree branches and shrubs within 15 feet of a stovepipe or chimney outlet
    • Ask the power company to clear branches from power lines
    • Remove vines from the walls of the home
    • Clear a 10-foot area around propane tanks and the barbecue
    • Place a screen over the grill of any barbecue (use non-flammable material with mesh no coarser than one-quarter inch)
    • Regularly dispose of newspapers and rubbish at an approved site. Follow local burning regulations
    • Place stove, fireplace and grill ashes in a metal bucket, soak in water for two days, then bury the cold ashes in mineral soil
    • Store gasoline, oily rags and other flammable materials in approved safety cans. Place cans in a safe location away from the base of buildings.
    • Stack firewood at least 100 feet away and uphill from your home
    • Clear combustible material within 20 feet of your home
    • Use only UL-approved wood-burning devices
    • Have spark arresters installed on your chimney(s) and stovepipes which meet the requirements of National Fire Protection Association Code 211 (contact your local fire department for exact specifications)
    • Inspect chimneys at least twice a year and clean them at least once a year
    • Keep chimney dampers in good working order
    • Use 1/2-inch mesh screen beneath porches, decks, floor areas and the home itself. Also, screen openings to floors, roof and attic.
    • Install a smoke detector on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms; test monthly and change the batteries at least once each year.
    • Keep a ladder that will reach the roof.
    • Consider installing protective shutters or heavy fire-resistant drapes.
    • Keep handy household items that can be used as fire tools: a rake, axe, handsaw or chainsaw, bucket and shovel.
    • Identify and maintain an adequate outside water source such as a small pond, cistern, well, swimming pool or hydrant.
    • Have a garden hose that is long enough to reach any area of the home and other structures on the property.
    • Install freeze-proof exterior water outlets on at least two sides of the home and near other structures on the property
    • Install additional outlets at least 50 feet from the home.
    • Consider obtaining a portable gasoline-powered pump in case electrical power is cut off.
    • Talk to your neighbors about equipment, tools, etc. that you could share in the event of a wildfire

Regularly:

  • Report hazardous conditions which could cause a wildfire
  • Keep the gas tank in your car at least half full anytime there is an increased chance of having to evacuate
  • Teach your children about fire safety and ensure they can’t get possession of matches
  • Teach your family how to use fire extinquishers (e.g., ABC type) and where they are kept in your house

If you see a wildfire:

  • Call 911 (don’t assume that someone else has already called)
  • Speak slowly and clearly
  • Give the location of the fire as best you can
  • Stay on the phone in case the dispatcher has any questions

If a wildfire is approaching your house:

  • Call 911 (see guidance above)
  • Depending on the proximity of the wildfire and the location of your escape routes, evacuate in plenty of time to safely escape
  • Gather all family members, guests and pets in preparation for immediate evacuation
  • Immediately evacuate persons with medical/physical limitations, the young and the elderly
  • As time permits:
    • Back your car into the driveway and roll up the windows
    • Place pets and valuables in the car in the garage, e.g.:
      • Valuable papers/documents
      • Mementos
      • Things you ‘can’t live without’
    • Put on protective clothing
    • Clear combustible items from the area around the house, e.g.:
      • Wood piles
      • Wood lawn furniture
      • Barbecue grill(s)
      • Tarp coverings
    • Close/cover openings in the house, e.g.:
      • Attic vents
      • Eaves vents
      • Basement vents
      • Windows (don’t lock them)
      • Doors (don’t lock them)
      • Pet doors
    • Remove flammable drapes and curtains
    • Close shutters, blinds and heavy non-combustible window coverings – to reduce radiant heat
    • Close doors inside the house – to prevent draft
    • Open the fireplace damper
    • Close the fireplace screen/doors
    • Turn on outside lights
    • Turn on a light in every room – to make the house more visible in heavy smoke
    • Shut off gas supply lines (natural gas, propane gas, fuel oil) at the source
    • Connect garden hoses
    • Fill any available pools, hot tubs, garbage cans, tubs, large containers, etc. with water
    • Ensure gas-powered water pumps are fueled and ready
    • Place a ladder against the house in clear view
    • Disconnect automatic garage door openers so the doors can be opened by hand if the power goes out
    • Close all garage doors

If you are unable to evacuate before a wildfire reaches your house:

A wildfire will pass a house before the house burns down

  • Stay calm
  • As the fire front approaches, go inside the house (you can survive inside)

After a wildfire passes your house:

  • Immediately:
    • Check the roof for, and put out, any roof fires, sparks or embers
    • Check the attic for, and put out, hidden burning sparks
    • If you have a fire, get your neighbors to help fight it
    • If you don’t have water pressure, use water from your pool, hot tub, etc. to fight any fires
    • If the power is out, try connecting a hose to the outlet on your water heater
  • For several hours after the fire:
    • Watch for fires which may reignite or flare up
    • Regularly check for smoke and sparks throughout the house

If you are caught in a vehicle by a wildfire:

Staying in your car is much less dangerous than trying to run from a fire on foot

  • Roll up windows
  • Close air vents
  • Turn on headlights
  • Watch for pedestrians and other vehicles
  • Drive slowly
  • Do not drive through heavy smoke
  • If you have to stop:
    • Park away from the heaviest trees and brush
    • Leave headlights on
    • Turn off the ignition
    • Keep windows rolled up
    • Keep air vents closed
    • Get on the floor
    • Cover yourself with a blanket, coat, etc.
    • Stay in your car until the main fire passes
    • Be aware that:
      • Metal gas tanks and containers rarely explode
      • Some smoke and sparks may enter your car
      • Air currents may rock your car
      • The temperature inside your car will increase

If you are caught in the open by a wildfire:

  • Seek temporary shelter:
    • Find an area which doesn’t have much fuel for the fire
    • Use a depression if available
    • If there’s time, clear fuel away from the depression
    • If on a steep mountainside, the back side is safest
    • Avoid canyons, natural ‘chimneys’ and saddles
    • If near a road, lie face down along the road cut or in the ditch on the uphill side
  • Cover yourself with anything that will help shield you from the fire’s heat
  • Stay down until after the fire passes

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