What to Do When a Wildfire Threatens
Know how to prevent wildfires and what to do during and after if one occurs
Red flag warnings and wildfires are springing up across the country as the spring fire season gets into full swing. In recent days, the American Red Cross responded to wildfires in Riverside County, California and Carbon County, Pennsylvania.
Millions of homes across the country are near woodlands and could be affected by a wildfire. The Red Cross offers safety tips on how to better protect yourself and your loved ones from a wildfire.
EMERGENCY APP Download the Red Cross Emergency App for instant access to expert advice on what to do right before, during and after 14 different types of emergencies and disasters including wildfires. You’ll find tips on how to plan ahead in case of a future wildfire. The app also contains weather alerts, life-saving information and ways to contact family and friends in one free, easy-to-use app for mobile devices. Users can customize more than 35 emergency alerts based on their location and where loved ones live.
WILDFIRE SAFETY Remove anything that can catch fire from around your home, garage and outdoor shed, including firewood and propane tanks. If it’s flammable, keep it away from your house, deck or porch. Obey outside burning bans when issued. Other things you can do to be prepared include:
1. Keep your gutters and roofs clean. Remove dead vegetation and shrubbery from your yard. Keep your lawn hydrated.
2. Select building materials and plants that resist fire.
3. Make sure driveway entrances and your house number or address are clearly marked.
4. Set aside items that can be used as fire tools – a rake, axe, hand or chain saw, bucket and shovel.
5. Identify and maintain a good water source outside your home. Examples include a small pond, well or swimming pool.
IF A FIRE OCCURS Listen to your local media for updates on the fire and be ready to leave quickly. Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing your direction of escape. You should also:
1. Keep your pets in one room so you can find them quickly if you have to evacuate.
Related: Disaster Preparedness for Your Pet
2. Arrange for a temporary place to stay outside the threatened area.
3. Keep your indoor air clean – close windows and doors to prevent the smoke outside from getting in your home.
4. Use the recycle mode on the air conditioner in your home or car. If you don’t have air conditioning and it’s too hot to be inside, seek shelter somewhere else.
5. If smoke levels are high, don’t use anything that burns and adds to air pollution inside such as candles, fireplaces and gas stoves.
Related: How to Make a Home Fire Escape Plan
AFTER THE FIRE Don’t go home until fire officials say it is safe. Be cautious entering a burned area – hazards could still exist. Avoid damaged or downed power lines, poles and wires. Other things to do include:
1. Keep your animals under your direct control. Hidden embers and hot spots could burn them.
2. Wet down debris to minimize breathing dust particles.
3. Wear leather gloves and shoes with heavy soles.
4. Throw out any food that has been exposed to heat, smoke or soot.
Recheck for smoke or sparks throughout your home for several hours after the fire, including in your attic. Wildfire winds can blow burning embers anywhere so check for embers that could cause a fire.
You can find tips like these and other valuable information in the Preparedness section of redcross.org.