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How to Stay Safe if a Wildfire Is Near You

Intense flames engulfing dry grass, indicative of a wildfire or controlled burn.

May 21, 2022

Wildfires move quickly and can be deadly. You and your family can stay safe during fire season by following expert guidelines on preventing, evading, and preparing for wildfires. Following these expert tips can mean the difference between safety, and losing your home or life.

How to Reduce Wildfire Risk

You can reduce your community’s wildfire risk by regularly clearing out brush around homes and buildings during fire season, such as dry leaves, pine needles, and dead grass. You and your neighbors should ensure that homes and buildings are secure and that openings that could allow embers or sparks to enter are screened off or sealed up during wildfire season. You should trim back shrubs or overhanging branches that can help fire spread, and regularly rake up and remove leaves, dry grass, mulch, or anything else that can catch fire. You and your neighbors should store away outdoor furniture, paint, chemicals, propane tanks, gasoline, combustibles, wood piles, and anything else around homes or buildings that could catch fire or act as kindling that would help a fire spread throughout the community.

Create an Emergency Plan With Your Family

You and your family should agree on an emergency plan in the event that a wildfire threatens your home, your child’s school, or anywhere else in the community that you regularly visit. Your child should know the plan in case you and your family are separated at the time of a wildfire threat or evacuation. Your plan should include:

  • Emergency preparedness kits kept in strategic locations known to everyone in your family, such as your home, vehicles, garage, and at least one other location that could be accessed should you not be able to reach your home. These kits should include:
    • emergency supplies
    • first aid supplies
    • drinking water & snacks
    • emergency fire blankets
    • copies of important documents
    • crucial medications
    • emergency phone numbers

The kits should be stored in a fireproof box or safe.

  • An emergency evacuation plan, including an emergency meeting place, and more than one way out of your neighborhood, as you won’t necessarily know which direction the fire is spreading. You and your family should run through the plan more than once, until everyone has committed all steps to memory. Your plan should also include steps to take if one or more family members is not at the home at the time of evacuation.
  • An emergency meeting place where all family members will convene in the case of an emergency or evacuation. It’s important that all family members know to go directly to that meeting spot and stay put until everyone is gathered.
  • A communication plan or way for family members to get news or information about the wildfire status, even if you are not all together.

Meet With Community Members About Wildfire Risk

You and your community should be working cooperatively to minimize wildfire risk and increase awareness of statutes and ordinances you should be following during high risk seasons. The community should have a committee dedicated to regularly inspecting areas for wildfire risk factors and educating the community on wildfire prevention and preparedness. You should find out if local firefighters or other officials can speak to the community about how to prepare and prevent wildfires, and what to do in the event of an evacuation order. You can also speak to local radio stations or other entities that can provide early warning of wildfires and up to date information on wildfire risk levels or wildfire status.

Know What to Do if a Wildfire Is in Your Area

If a wildfire is in your area, you should stay up to date on local news and updates regarding the status of the fire, the risk level in your area, and the evacuation status. Make sure you know where your family and pets are, where your emergency preparedness kit is, and what your evacuation path is should an evacuation order be issued. Remember that you don’t need to wait for an official evacuation order before you and your family seek safety and shelter.

You should also:

  • Put pets in crates or kennels so they can be easily transported during evacuation.
  • Put all valuables in the car.
  • Move anything that could act as fuel or kindling far away from the home or other structures.
  • Close up any openings in the home that could allow smoke, embers, or fire to enter the home.
  • Connect garden hoses and fill pools, hot tubs, garbage cans, tubs, or any other large containers with water.
  • Leave as early as possible even if you haven’t yet been told to evacuate. Most importantly, do not stay after an evacuation order has been issued.

Know Where to Find Up to Date News

You and your family should know how to find up to date news and information about your community’s daily wildfire risk level, how to prevent wildfires, what activities are unsafe during peak fire season, and the area’s daily air quality rating. In the event of a wildfire or evacuation order, you should have a way to communicate with your family and access crucial information about nearby emergency shelters or supplies. For those living in the greater Portola area, including Nevada, Plumas and Sierra Counties, you can always visit our website to find out the day’s outdoor burn day status, current air quality and health advisories, and public notices and news. You can also sign up for our email advisories and newsletter to get the latest health advisories and news delivered straight to your inbox.

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