Disaster Information | Natural Disasters - Wildfires


Thousands of acres of woodland and hundreds of homes are destroyed each year during a fire season, which runs from May to October, but for some unfortunate few, wildfires are a possibility all year long. If you live in the foothills, grasslands, or mountains, you are at risk.

But it is not only the fire Americans need to be concerned about. There are also secondary effects of wildfires, including flooding, erosion, and landslides.

When a warning is given about a wildfire, be prepared to evacuate by following these tips:

  • If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.

  • Arrange temporary housing at a friend's or relative's home outside the threatened area.

  • Tell someone when you are leaving and where you are going.

  • Know at least two exit routes from your neighborhood in case of emergency evacuation.

  • Choose a route away from fire hazards. Watch for changes in the speed and direction of fire and smoke.

  • If you have time before evacuating, back your car into the garage, leave the key in ignition, and close the garage door. Close windows and doors to the house, and close all inside doors.

  • If you're sure you have time, take steps to protect your home.

    • Take down drapes and curtains.

    • Place a ladder against the front of the house.

    • If you have a combustible roof, wet it down or turn on roof sprinklers.

    • Turn off the gas at the meter and the butane tank.

    • Disconnect automatic garage door openers.

  • Confine pets to one room. Make plans to care for your pets in case you must evacuate.

  • Place fire fighting tools, such as 100 feet of pre-connected garden hose, a shovel, a rake, a bucket, and containers filled with water, in an accessible place.

  • Wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes, cotton or woolen clothing, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, and a handkerchief to protect your face.

  • Take your emergency supplies kit.

  • Lock your home.

If you have enough warning about the fire, consider packing the following items:

  • Important documents, such as Social Security cards, driver's licenses, house deed, vehicle titles, marriage licenses, birth certificates, health insurance cards, and auto and home insurance policies

  • Home inventory list and photos

  • Prescription medications

  • Important personal computer information downloaded to disk

  • Valuable jewelry

  • Photographs

  • Items with sentimental value, such as wedding dress or baby keepsakes

  • One week's worth of clothing

  • Pet ID tags, carriers, and pet food

There are steps you can take to protect your home in the event of a wildfire:

  • When landscaping, select materials and plants that can help contain fire rather than fuel it.

  • Use fire-resistant or non-combustible material materials on the roof and exterior of your home; or, treat wood or combustible material with UL-approved, fire-retardant chemicals.

  • Clear roof and gutters of pine needles, leaves, and other debris on a regular basis.

  • Inspect your chimney at least twice a year, and clean it at least once a year. Keep damper in good shape, and equip chimney and stovepipe with a non-flammable screen of 1/2-inch or smaller mesh. Your local fire department can let you know the specifications.

  • Use 1/2-inch mesh screen beneath porch, deck, floor areas, and the home itself. Also use this mesh for screen openings to floors, roof, and attic.

  • Enclose the undersides of balconies and above-ground deck with fire-resistive materials.

  • Install a smoke detector on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms; test monthly and change the batteries twice a year.

  • Teach family members how to use the fire extinguisher and show them where it's kept.

  • Keep a ladder that will reach the roof.

  • When wildfire threatens, you won't have time to shop or search for supplies. Assemble a disaster supplies kit with items you may need if advised to evacuate. Store these supplies in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers such as backpacks, duffel bags, or trash containers. Include in the kit:

    • A three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day)

    • Food that won't spoil

    • One change of clothing and footwear per person

    • One blanket or sleeping bag per person

    • A first aid kit that includes your family's prescription medications

    • Emergency tools, including a battery-powered radio, flashlight, and plenty of extra batteries

    • An extra set of car keys and a credit card, cash, or traveler's checks

    • Sanitation supplies

    • Special items for infant, elderly, or disabled family members

    • An extra pair of eyeglasses

    • Important family documents stored in a waterproof container

    • Assemble a smaller version of your kit to keep in the trunk of your car