Preparing for Wildfires: How to Keep Your Family and Home Safe

July 21, 2021

Old Firehose Box

Living in a woodland setting near breathtaking scenery provides homeowners with a striking natural beauty and peaceful landscape. But, wildfires can threaten that natural beauty and your home.

Lightning or accidents can spark a fire and spread quickly. The reality is that homes and properties may not make it through the wildfire, especially if homeowners do not prepare for wildfires. Property owners can reduce their wildfire risk by preparing long before wildfire strikes.

Follow these wildfire safety tips to help protect your family and property.

Remove Fire Hazards

Removing fire hazards in your defensible space can help reduce the risk of extensive fire damage. Plant fire resistant shrubs and trees (such as, hardwood trees, which are less flammable than pine, eucalyptus, evergreen, and fir trees) to help slow down the spread of the fire, not add fuel to it.

Keep these fire preparedness tips in mind:

  • Regularly clean the roof and gutters.
  • Inspect and equip chimneys with a spark arrester that meets NFPA requirements (contact your local fire department to find our more)
  • Keep fire tools handy, such as axe, rake, chain saw or hand saw, shovel, and bucket
  • Regularly clear away flammable items near the house such as tarp coverings, lawn furniture, wood piles, propane tanks, etc.
  • Identify an adequate outside water source such as a small pond, swimming pool, well, water troughs, water tanks, or outside faucets and hydrants.
  • Have a garden hose that can reach every part of the house and other structures on the property.
  • Install a screen underneath porches, decks, and floor areas, and screen openings to attic, roof, and floors.
  • Invest in a portable air cleaner with a true-HEPA filter that can filter out wildfire smoke from outside air. Update your HVAC system’s HEPA filters capable of capturing the fine smoke particles.
  • Connect garden hoses to outdoor water faucets. Fill pools, hot tubs, tubs, garage cans, or other large containers with water and make sure water sources are easy to access.
  • Take power outage precautions. For example, disconnect garage door openers to be able to open the door by hand if the power goes out.

Be Aware of Warnings and Alerts

Fire Danger Status Sign

Understanding state and federal warnings and alerts can put you in a better position to protect your household from a wildfire.

  • Download the FEMA app to set up real-time alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five locations across the country.
  • Sign up for local alerts. Make sure your phone has enabled Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) and be aware of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on the television and radio.
  • Check the air quality where you live with air quality alerts.

Create a Wildfire Evacuation Plan

Emergency Evacuation Plan

Do not wait until it is too late.

A wildfire evacuation plan must be set in place and all household members must understand what to do in case of an emergency. Emergency plans will vary by household depending on their unique situation.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to consider the latest CDC guidance to understand how it can affect your emergency plan.

An evacuation plan must have the following elements:

  • A predetermined location to meet that is outside of the fire and hazard area.
  • Multiple escape routes for you from the home, property, and affected community. It is important to review them regularly to be prepared.
  • Consider the evacuation plan of any pets and livestock on your property. If you have more animals than you can haul in one trip, know how many trips and how long evacuation will take or if you’ll need to have neighbors, friends, or evacuation resources to help get farm animals to safety.

Wildfire preparation checklist:

  • Establish temporary housing in case you need to evacuate.
  • Keep fire extinguishers around the house and teach everyone how to use them. Regularly check that they are not expired.
  • Show your family where the gas, water, and electric main shut off controls are located to turn them off in case of an emergency.
  • Create an emergency supply checklist and kit for every person in the household, including for pets and livestock.
  • Create a list of emergency contact numbers and place them in your kit and your phone.
  • Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle in case you cannot get your kit from the home.
  • Create digital copies of your important documents and consider adding a fireproof safe to your home to protect heirlooms and valuables in case you need to leave quickly.

Escape Routes and Meeting Locations

Create a floor plan (one page per floor) and clearly indicate two escape routes from each room. Ensure everyone in your family understands the floor plan. Keep a copy of the escape routes in the children’s’ rooms at eye level.

For upper floors (not ground level), consider using escape ladders and safe ways to exit without using the inside stairwells and ensure everyone in the family knows how to use these products.

After moving away from the fire hazard area, it is important to establish a safe location to meet after a wildfire emergency. Mark down the locations to ensure all members of your household understand where they are.

When evacuating, ensure you do not leave any vehicles parked next to the house. Give the fire department plenty of space to be able to put out the fire. Also, clearly mark your water supply for firefighters.

If you live on a farm or homestead, develop a plan that includes locations where you would take your livestock. A relative’s home, neighbor’s that may be a safe distance away, the fairgrounds, and stay alert for other evacuation sites for animals like auction yards or large farms and arenas? Establish a location outside of the threatened area beforehand and a transportation method.

If you cannot take your pet or livestock with you, keep them in as safe an area as you can with access to fresh water and dry food. Do not let them roam free outdoors where injury and damage could happen even without fire conditions. Keep them in an area with adequate ventilation and be sure the fresh water is in non-spill containers.

Avoid returning home for any reason until authorities declare it is safe to do so. Upon return, steer clear of smoldering debris and hot ash. Watch where you step and touch since there may be hot pockets that can ignite or burn you.

The appropriate respirator can help if you need to clean up ash. Keep in mind respirators are not designed to fit children and have specific uses so always read the instructions to assure the respirator is meant for the job. Wear protective clothing such as work gloves, sturdy shoes, face coverings, long pants, and long sleeved shirts when cleaning up after a wildfire.

Take pictures of the property damage and do an inventory of your losses. Contact your insurance company to file your claim right away.

Emergency Supply Kit

Fire Emergency Prep Kit

Prepare, prepare, prepare. An emergency supply kit should be packed and ready to go in case you need to evacuate your home. Make sure to make it easily accessible so you do not have to scramble to find it in a stressful situation.

Ideally, every person in the household should have their own emergency supply kit. Keep your kit, except for the food and water, in backpacks or other large bags that can be easily carried by every family member when you need to evacuate quickly.

For food and water, using a tub or chest on wheels can help you easily transport the heavier but necessary load. Just make sure it is not too heavy to lift into your vehicle. Include food and water for your pets and livestock.

Be careful when carrying around flammable or combustible materials. Flammable materials may include cooking oils, rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, and aerosols.

If you have a high risk of getting evacuation orders at any moment, including the middle of the night, keep a pair of durable shoes and a flashlight within reach by your bed.

An emergency supply kit should contain the following supplies:

  • Face masks or coverings (N95 for smoke protection)
  • 3-day supply of food (non-perishable) and water (three gallons per person)
  • Map of evacuation routes
  • Medication prescriptions
  • Change of clothing
  • Extra eyeglasses and contact lenses
  • Cash, credit and debit cards
  • Computer hard drive and disks
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Sanitation supplies and hygiene products
  • Battery-powered radio with extra batteries
  • Important documents (birth certificates, passports, insurance papers, medical/vaccination records for household, including pets and livestock)
  • Pet/livestock food and water
  • Cell phone and laptop chargers and backup chargers
  • Photos and other valuables

Livestock Emergency Kit, Like Packing for a Show or Fair

  • 3-day supply hay, feed, and water
  • Leads and halters
  • First aid kit
  • Hoof pick
  • Wire cutters and sharp knife
  • Leg wraps
  • Shovel
  • Water buckets
  • Plastic trash barrel with lid

Pet Emergency Kit

  • Pet carrier
  • 2-week supply of food
  • First aid kit
  • Toys and treats
  • Leashes, collars (with ID tag), harnesses
  • Blankets
  • Paper towels
  • Newspaper
  • Doggie bags
  • Car litter box and litter
  • Medications
  • Water bowl

Shop Wilco Farm Stores for Disaster Preparedness Supplies

Fire Extinguisher in Building

Being prepared for wildfires is the best way to reduce the risk of damage.

For wildlife prevention supplies, shop Wilco Farm Stores.