Wildfire Emergency Safety Tips

California experiences thousands of wildfires every year. While most are minor, some have made history as the deadliest and most destructive wildfires in the world. 2018 was the most devastating year for wildfires in California’s history. Ninety-three victims lost their lives in wildfires. Eighty-five died in a single fire: the Northern California Camp Fire. Although wildfire rates have decreased this year, Californians must always be vigilant in preventing and preparing for fires. If a wildfire strikes your region, follow a few important emergency safety tips to get your family out of harm’s way.

Ways to Prevent Fires

Humans cause most wildfires in the U.S. and California. Almost 85% of all wildfires in the U.S. trace back to human activities, according to the National Park Service. You may not think you make a difference, but just one person could start a fire that destroys thousands of acres and takes lives. Do your part to prevent wildfires in California.

  • Obey burn restrictions
  • Discard cigarettes correctly
  • Keep all vehicles and equipment properly maintained
  • Do not use consumer fireworks or play with fire
  • Never let children play with lighters or matches
  • Maintain all electrical cords and equipment in your home
  • Keep your oven clean
  • Store flammable products and items properly
  • Never go to sleep with candles burning
  • Test your smoke detectors regularly

If you wish to have a fire while camping, get your campfire permit to stay within the confines of the law. You need a permit in California to start a campfire or use a portable stove on private properties and national parks. You also need written permission from the owner on private property. Taking steps such as obtaining your campfire permit could educate you about the dangers of wildfires, helping you spread awareness and prevent fires in your community.

Creating an Emergency Plan

A wildfire emergency plan can save invaluable time during a real emergency. You can feel calm, prepared and ready to go if you have already mapped out what to do during a wildfire. Assemble an emergency supply kit. Your kit should include nonperishable food items, plenty of water, extra clothes, medical information, a flashlight, a first aid kit and a burn kit. Create an emergency evacuation plan and practice it with your family. You should all know where to exit the home and have a meeting point a safe distance away. Plan at least two ways out of your neighborhood, and know the location of the nearest wildfire evacuation center.

What to Do in a Wildfire

Sign up for notifications from a wildfire alert system in your community. Download an app such as Ready for Wildfire for alerts sent straight to your phone. If you receive a warning that a wildfire is near your area, prepare to evacuate. Pack your bags and grab your emergency kit. Put must-have items in your vehicle so you can leave quickly. If told to evacuate, do so immediately. Go to the nearest emergency evacuation center. If you have time before an evacuation, take steps to help protect your home from fire damage.

  • Push furniture into the center of each room
  • Take down curtains and window treatments
  • Close all windows and doors
  • Shut of sources of natural gas
  • Turn every light on to make your home more visible to firefighters in smoke

While driving away from a wildfire, keep your windows up to avoid inhaling smoke. Remain calm and drive slowly. Turn your headlights on to make your vehicle more visible. Drive directly to the fire evacuation point closest to you. Do not exit your vehicle unless you get stuck and it is an emergency. Once the fire abates, return to your property only after officials say it safe to do so. If the fire damaged your property, take photographs to begin a homeowners insurance claim.