Climate change is impacting weather and precipitation patterns, increasing dry periods and creating extended droughts across the nation, which places these locations at much higher risks for wild fires.
Also, people are increasingly moving to locations known as wildland-urban interfaces, creating additional risk. Ready.gov offers tips on how to prepare and protect both your home and your family for wild fires.
Being prepared for a wildfire
Ready.gov advises having an emergency plan that includes locations to where the family can evacuate should the order be given. It recommends mapping several routes to ensure a safe evacuation no matter where the fire is located, and also suggests letting friends or relatives know both when and how the evacuation will be completed and the location of the planned evacuation.
The site further suggests maintaining an emergency kit, stocked with clothes, first aid supplies, food and water and have it easily accessible in the event of an evacuation. It also recommends keeping vehicles fully fueled and in good working order to ensure a safe evacuation.
Prepare the home
Preparing the home should be done ahead of any threat of a wildfire, and defensive actions should include:
- Regular cleaning of gutters and roofs.
- Planting of fire resistant landscaping.
- Keeping trees trimmed and free from dead limbs or leaves.
- Maintaining a defensible space of 30-50 feet around the home.
- Refraining from storing flammable items such as newspapers, wood piles, or dried leaves anywhere near the home.
- Ensuring that garden hoses are attached and can reach all the way around the home.
- Filling garbage cans, tubs, or any large containers with water.
Once families are prepared for a fire, Ready.gov suggests that the first thing to do is to be aware of fire ready conditions around the area. If a fire weather watch is issued, it indicates conditions are dangerous for the next 12 to 72 hours, so listen for weather updates and emergency instructions. To stay up with area alerts, it advises searching using the word "alert" for that location.
If a fire is spotted, the site urges individuals to call 9-1-1, and not to assume that someone has already called, which could delay defensive actions by first responders and emergency personnel.
Once an evacuation is ordered, it is extremely important to comply immediately to ensure the safety of all family members.
Only return home once authorities have deemed the area safe to re-enter, but use caution as hidden embers, or hot spots may still exist and could ignite suddenly. Be sure to maintain a fire watch around the home and repeatedly check the house, including the roof and attic, for any potential fire starters, such as sparks or hidden embers.