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How to Prepare for a Wildfire

Reduce your risk of fire damage

Wildfires can spread with astonishing speed, quickly engulfing vegetation and threatening lives and property. You may not be able to prevent a wildfire from starting, but you can take steps to prepare. The following precautionary measures will help to reduce the potential for damage to your property and ensure the safety of you and your loved ones:

People (and Pets)
  • Make sure that everyone in your family understands how to safely evacuate or to get to a safe place within your home.
  • Establish a pre-determined meeting place for loved ones to gather and be accounted for during an emergency.
  • Find out how your community alerts residents to an emergency. Sign up for email, text message, and social media alerts where available.
  • Consider having at least one member of the family learn basic first aid training.
  • Create a household safety kit that at least includes a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies.
  • Know where your pets like to hide so you can find them in a hurry. Also, keep in mind that many shelters do not take pets due to catastrophe, so have a contingency plan for where they can stay.
  • Make sure your address number on your mailbox or house is at least four inches tall against a contrasting background and is visible for at least 150 feet in all directions. This is so your home can be easily located by emergency officials.
  • Remove vegetation around your home and chimney, prune tree branches to 10 feet above the ground, and regularly mow your lawn and remove debris.
  • Install smoke alarms in every room and test them monthly. Install a fully-charged fire extinguisher on each floor of the house.
  • Keep a garden hose that's long enough to reach all areas of the house, and be ready to fill garbage cans, tubs, or other large containers with water.
  • Have a ladder nearby that's tall enough to reach your roof so you can check for hot spots and wet it to prevent flying embers from igniting.
  • Install freeze-proof exterior water faucets on at least two sides of your house and near other structures on your property, with one or more additional faucets at least 50 feet from the house.
  • Store anything combustible or flammable, like gasoline or liquid propane gas, in approved safety containers well away from the house.
  • Regularly remove leaves and other debris from gutters.
  • Move potentially combustible items such as lawn furniture, umbrellas, tarp coverings, and flags away from the house.
  • Clear any combustible materials such as mulch, vegetation, construction materials and move any sheds from within five feet of the house.
  • Stack firewood at least 30 feet away from any structure.
  • Ensure that the dampers in your chimney and stovepipes are working and cleaned annually. Consider equipping your chimney and stovepipes with a spark arrester approved by the National Fire Protection Association.
  • Install quarter-inch mesh screens on vents; louvers; entrances to attics and crawl spaces; and beneath decks, porches and the house itself (if it is not on a solid foundation).
  • Make copies of all important documents (passport, driver's license, birth certificate, financial documentation, auto registration, property deeds, will, etc.) and keep copies with your out-of-area contact.
    • Create an organized photo catalog of your belongings on your smartphone.
  • Keep your car fueled, in good working condition, and stocked with emergency supplies and a change of clothes.
General Prevention
  • Do not smoke near dry leaves or grass or build a fire near trees or bushes.
  • Never leave a burning cigarette unattended, and be sure that it is completely extinguished when you are finished.
  • Never leave a fire unattended, and make sure it is completely out before walking away. To ensure that a fire is extinguished, soak the ashes with water, stir them with a stick, and bury them with soil.
  • Sparks from the exhaust system of your car can start a fire. If you travel through fire-prone areas frequently, consider installing a spark arrester.