4 Emergency Evacuation Tips for a Wildfire

As a resident of California, emergency wildfire preparedness should be high on your list of priorities. From January 1st to November 17th, 2019, 5,458 wildfires erupted in California, burning across 128,301 acres. Wildfires in California have taken hundreds of lives, with the state’s deadliest fire occurring recently; the Camp Fire in 2018 caused 85 deaths. Memorizing wildfire evacuation tips could mean the difference between life and death in an emergency. Even during the colder times of the year, the dry weather and Santa Ana winds can risk a wildfire from happening at anytime in the state of California.

Do Not Wait

A critical mistake many victims have made in the past is ignoring evacuation orders or getting out too late. Listen for evacuation orders in your area on the news or radio. You can also download CalFire’s Ready for Wildfire app to receive notifications on your phone about fires in your area. Prepare your bags, emergency kits, pets, children and vehicle ahead of time so you can leave in a hurry if ordered to evacuate. Do not hesitate or hope for the fires to go in a different direction. If you receive the order to evacuate, leave immediately. Even if you do not receive an order, if you fear for your life or conditions appear to be worsening, go to the nearest evacuation shelter.

Plan Ahead

Speed up your departure during evacuation by preparing ahead of time. Having everything ready can help you grab things and go instead of scrambling to collect valuable items or find prescription medications. Have an evacuation plan prepared and practiced, along with a map of the best route to the nearest wildfire evacuation shelter so you can leave at a moment’s notice. Use an evacuation checklist to help you take care of key matters before you receive the order to evacuate.

  • Back your vehicle into your driveway and close all the windows. Leave the key in the ignition.
  • Take down drapes and curtains and push furniture into the centers of each room.
  • Close all windows, doors and vents to prevent drafts.
  • Shut off all sources of natural gas.
  • Keep all the lights on to help firefighters see your property through the smoke.
  • Create a bag with emergency supplies such as water, nonperishable food items, important documents, medications, spare clothes, a radio and a map. Keep this bag in your vehicle.

If you do not have time to do everything on the checklist, simply grab your emergency pack and pets and leave. Take your preplanned emergency route and have a few other options in place in case the first route is inaccessible. Try to remain calm, stay up to date on the local news, drive safely and get to an emergency center promptly.

Prepare Your Pets

Losing beloved pets in a wildfire is devastating. Do your best to prevent this by preparing your pets ahead of time. As soon as you hear the news that a fire is in your region, put domestic animals in carriers and place them near your front door for a quick departure. Waiting too long can lead to nervous animals that are hard to find and catch. If you have large animals, such as horses or cattle, arrange to transport them to a safe shelter in advance. If you will be taking them with you when you evacuate, prepare them for travel and have your trailer ready to go. Remain calm to help prevent your animals from reacting to your panic. Blindfold animals to help them move if you need to evacuate them from a burning building.

Reduce Fire Damage

If you have time, take additional steps to prepare your property for a wildfire. Move any flammable or combustible items out of your yard. Bring them inside your home or put them in a swimming pool. Move barbeque propane appliances away from structures. Connect your hoses to spigots to help firefighters. Never leave your sprinklers running, as this can cause a critical problem with water pressure. Place a ladder at the corner of your house so firefighters can access your roof. Clear your yard of dead leaves and branches. Cut down any tree limbs that dangle 15 feet or less from the ground. Arrange buckets of water around your yard. Stop what you are doing and evacuate immediately upon receiving orders to do so.