Wildfire Safety Tips

During and After a Wildfire

Wildfires can change course unpredictably and move incredibly fast. When you or your family are in the path of an approaching wildfire, it's especially important that each family member is prepared to follow directions, stay calm, and undertake the following safety tips.

If a fire is approaching:
  • Listen to radio reports and monitor any safety alerts via email or social media regarding evacuation information and instructions from national and local authorities. If told to evacuate, do so immediately and make sure to tell someone where you are going and when you have arrived.
  • If you see a wildfire and haven't received evacuation orders yet, call the authorities immediately. Don't assume that someone else has already called and reported it.
  • Confine pets to one room and have their carriers ready.
  • Close doors and windows to prevent drafts, and take down flammable drapes and curtains.
  • Turn on a light in each room for visibility in heavy smoke.
  • Close gas valves and turn off pilot lights.
  • Place valuables that won't be damaged by water in a pool or pond, and plan to take with you anything else you need to protect. Remember to bring necessary items like prescription medications, credit cards, and cell phones.
  • Leave portable lawn sprinklers running on your roof to protect against flying sparks.
  • Park your car in the direction of escape, roll up the windows, shut the doors, and keep the keys handy.
  • Close your garage doors and windows, and disconnect your automatic garage door opener. Don't lock anything in case you need to quickly get back in.
If you are caught in a fire:
  • Get to a pool, pond, river, or even a swamp as quickly as possible.
  • Prevent smoke inhalation by getting close to the ground.
  • If you can't get to water, get to an open area that's free of combustibles or lie down flat near a rock, concrete patio, or wall. Avoid parking lots or roadways where vehicles may be traveling.
  • Cover your head and upper body with soil, dry clothing, or a non-flammable heavy blanket, such as one made from wool. Never use wet clothing for protection as it could turn to steam and damage your airway, possibly resulting in death.
  • If you are trapped in your house:
    • Bend over or crawl under the smoke, keeping your head no more than two feet above the floor, where the air will be cleanest.
    • Feel doorknobs or doors with the back of your hand to check for heat, which indicates that there may be a fire on the other side.
  • If you are trapped in your car while evacuating:
    • Park in an open area clear of vegetation.
    • Close all windows and vents.
    • Lie on the floor and cover yourself with a blanket or jacket.
  • If someone you are with has been burned, notify the authorities or seek help immediately.
After a fire has passed:
  • Before going home, listen to the radio or speak with local authorities to confirm that it is safe to return to your property.
  • Use caution when entering burned areas as hot spots may still exist and can flare up without warning. If you smell smoke, evacuate immediately.
  • Check the roof and attic immediately for any hot spots, sparks or embers.
  • Continue rechecking the house and yard for burning embers for at least 12 hours.
Cleaning your home:
  • Wear a NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) certified respirator and wet any debris down to minimize exposure to dust particles.
  • Discard any food that has been exposed to heat, smoke, or soot.
  • Don't use any water that may have been contaminated to wash dishes, brush teeth, prepare food, or to make ice or baby formula.
  • Document any damage to your property for insurance claims purposes.
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