Complacency is a dangerous trait to have if you live around or near any forest or wildland area. Even if you feel it will be years before your home is in danger of being destroyed by a wildfire, you should prepare.
The Climate crisis is here, causing wildfires to happen more frequently and be more intense. They can ignite anywhere and take hold in a territory faster than you expect.
The golden rule is:Always expect a wildfire to threaten your home and pray that it does not.
Improve your home's wildfire resilience.
If you live remotely or on the edge of town, create a safety zone of up to 100 feet around your home.
Take away dead brush, fallen trees, pine needles, dry leaves, or anything burnable from your home's safety zone. This includes trash, trash bins, and recycling bins.
Don't stash wood close to the house. Any woodpiles for heating your home should be at least 30 feet from your home.
Design and landscape your home with materials and plants that can help you contain a fire rather than fuel it.
Inspect your roof regularly, maintain it, and replace it when needed.
Skylights DO NOT meet Class A roof standards.
Potential access of embers into your attic.
Siding concerns for wildfire resistance.
Reducing your risk with windows.
Reducing your risk with decks and porches.
Don't let your fence bring the fire home.
First and foremost, understand how to evacuate. Be aware of at least two different ways out of your neighborhood. Plan where you will go and make sure everyone in your family knows your meeting place ahead of time. Also, be sure your family and friends who don't live around you know your evacuation routes and meeting place.
Create a communication plan should you get separated from one another. Utilize the social media sites you share to send direct messages if calling or texting one another directly proves difficult. Decide which website registry service you’ll use that the others know to check.
Create an alternate housing plan. If you’re unable to return home for some time, you will need shelter. Do you plan on relying on government help with others, or have you already made arrangements with friends or family outside of the danger area?
Keep your car tank full of gas and emergency supplies stashed in your car. Make sure it's parked facing your route of escape.
Do not wait to evacuate. If you're told to leave, do it immediately.
If you delay, you risk additional danger from heavy traffic, blowing embers and debris, and other road hazards.
ALL windows in the house, garage, bathroom, and attic must be closed when there is the risk of a wildfire approaching.
More fires mean more smoke. For people living further away from the wildfire areas, this is a major concern. It's crucial that you understand the risks and reduce your smoke exposure during the wildfire season.
The most vulnerable.
Healthy adults may experience burning eyes, a runny nose, coughing, wheezing, or difficulty breathing to short-term smoke exposure. Overall, this should not pose a serious risk.
The young and old may face more serious risks from short-term smoke exposure. The fine particle matter within the mixture of gases from the wildfire smoke can be damaging.
Pregnant women are at risk, as the gas mixture can potentially negatively affect a developing fetus. Children are at risk because the gases can penetrate deep into the lungs, damaging or destroying delicate tissue.
Anyone who has heart or lung disease needs to be careful, as exposure to the smoke can result in palpitations, shortness of breath, and other symptoms. Make sure these individuals always have their medications on hand.
Protect your home from the smoke outside.
Monitor the outdoor air quality through the EPA channels and stay inside when the outdoor air quality is low due to smoke. Don't assume the air quality is good just because it looks clear outside.
Keep windows and vents closed. Replace filters on your home's air conditioners and air filtration systems regularly. (It's already recommended that you change them every six weeks for asthma sufferers.)
Window AC units should be set to "cool" and not "fan" so that they recirculate the indoor air versus pulling air in from the outside.
If you have been outside in times of poor air quality, change your clothes and your children's clothes when you come inside. Children like to be close to their adults, and they could inhale the matter that comes off of clothing.
Right after the disaster.
If you're separated from family members, use your communication plan. If you can, post to your social media channel or call a key family member to let the family far from you know you're okay. Bring them peace of mind at a time when they're watching the events in your area on the news.
Return home only when the officials say it's safe. If you cannot return home, enact whatever alternative shelter plan you decided on.
Comply with officials when they ask you to keep the phone lines clear, stay off emergency roads, or take other safety precautions.
Be aware of the residual dangers and keep these tips in mind before and after you're able to make the trip back to your home.
When you return home.
As you approach your home, stay on "fire alert." Look for smoke or sparks throughout the house and on rooftops. Look for ash pits and hidden embers. Stay away from them as they will burn you.
Your first step is to call your insurance rep and report the damages.
Enter your home carefully and conduct your inspection.
This is just a small list of tips for returning home after a fire. Seek information from your local fire agency before the wildfire season hits and design your inspection plan. Follow the fire agency’s do’s and don’ts in their safety plan while you inspect and clean up after a fire.