Emergency Preparedness: Wildfires

Wildfires burn across the US every year, and more and more people are living where wildfires are a real risk. Nearly 45 million homes and over 72,000 US communities are now at risk. By working together, residents can make their own property and their neighborhood much safer.

Research on home destruction vs. home survival in wildfires points to embers and small flames as the main way that the majority of homes ignite. Embers are considered burning pieces of airborne wood and/or vegetation that can be carried more than a mile through the wind.

Before a wildfire threatens your area…

  • Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches, and decks
  • Remove dead vegetation and other items from under your deck or porch, and within 10 feet of the house
  • Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating
  • Remove flammable materials (firewood stacks, propane tanks) within 30 feet of your home’s foundation, including garages and sheds. If it can catch fire, don’t let it touch your house, deck, or porch
  • Wildfires can spread to tree tops, so a good rule of thumb is to prune trees so that the lowest branches are 6-10 feet from the ground
  • Keep your lawn hydrated and maintained. If it is brown, cut it down to reduce fire intensity – dry grass and shrubs are fuel
  • Don’t let debris and lawn cuttings linger – dispose of these items quickly to reduce fire fuel
  • Inspect shingles or roof tiles. Replace or repair those that are loose or missing to prevent ember penetration
  • Cover exterior attic vents with metal wire mesh no larger than 1/8 inch to prevent sparks from entering the home
  • Enclose under-eave and soffit vents or screens with metal mesh to prevent ember entry

Creating an emergency plan

  • Assemble an emergency supply kit and place it in a safe, accessible spot. Make sure to include important documents, medications, and personal identification
  • Develop an emergency evacuation plan and practice it with everyone in your home
  • Plan two ways out of your neighborhood and designate a meeting place

During a wildfire in your area…

  • Stay aware of the latest news and updates from your local media and fire department. Get your family, home, and pets prepared to evacuate
  • Place your emergency supply kit and other valuables in your vehicle
  • Move patio or deck furniture, cushions, door mats, and potted plants in wooden containers either indoors or as far away from the home, shed, and garage as possible
  • Close and protect your home’s openings, including attic and basement doors and vents, windows, garage doors, and pet doors to prevent embers from entering your home
  • Connect garden hoses and fill any pools, hot tubs, garbage cans, tubs, or other large containers with water. Firefighters have been known to use the hoses to put out fires on rooftops
  • Leave as early as possible, before you’re told to evacuate. Do not linger once evacuation orders have been given. Promptly leaving your home and neighborhood clears roads for firefighters to get equipment in place to fight the fire