Updated from original post on 7/4/2018
Sadly, each fire season seems to be worse than the last.
January and February 2020 were among the driest starts to a year in recorded history, leading to an accelerated start to this year's fire season. The western half of the US is dealing with record breaking a heat wave, rolling power outages, and deplorable air quality from Washington to Texas.
San Francisco is covered in smoke for the third year in a row. Colorado fire fighters are fighting their states 2nd biggest wildfire in history. The sunsets in across Texas have been spectacular, as the suns rays filter through smoke and ask from fires across CA and CO.
The west is objectively getting drier. 2017 was the most destructive wildfire season the west has ever seen, until 2018 supplanted it. 2019 wasn't record setting, but it set up 2020 to be another unfortunate statistic record setter.
4.5 million U.S. homes are now identified at high or extreme risk of wildfire, with more than 2 million in California alone, according to Verisk’s 2019 Wildfire Risk Analysis.
As fires burn once more across the country, we are reminded how quickly they can get out of control, and how many of us are are risk. Now is the time to think through your wildfire risks, and take a few easy, common sense steps to make sure you have a plan in place.
What is a wildfire?
An uncontrolled, fast-moving blaze that sweeps through woodland or brush areas. They can move quickly from one area to the next.
How can I prevent a wildfire?
Most wildfires are caused by humans. Do your part and practice fire safety to help prevent wildfires.
Never leave a fire unattended. Call 911 if you notice an unattended or out-of-control fire. Never burn anything outdoors during a burn ban.
1. Know your zone
Keep updated on the latest safety and evacuation recommendations for your area. Check out the fire hazard severity zone map or this public information map from Esri. Oregon residents can use this new tool that maps wildfire risks to their exact location.
2. Prepare Your Home
- Remove combustibles like firewood, yard waste, or dry and bushy plants within 30 feet of your home
- Close your windows and your vents to prevent embers and smoke from damaging, or sparking, the interior of your home
- Shut off natural gas lines
- Fill large vessels outdoors, like pools or trash cans, with water to slow a fire.
Help your neighbors. If their homes aren’t protected, all the effort to protect your home could be for nothing
3. Pack an emergency kit
You may need to evacuate with less than an hour’s notice. Don’t waste valuable time packing emergency supplies. Instead, have them ready and waiting in a portable bag like a backpack or rolling duffle bag. You can purchase a ready-to-go kit, or make your own.
4. Prepare for evacuation
In addition to the emergency kit, you should also gather all the important documents that are difficult or impossible to replace. This include birth certificates, marriage licenses, insurance paperwork, and any other items you may need. Wear protective clothing and shoes.
5. Consider your pets
If you think an evacuation may become necessary for your area, plan ahead for your pets. Larger animals, like horses and goats, should be moved ahead of time. Smaller animals should have their own emergency kits, food, or even a travel carrier ready to go.
6. Practice your route
You should practice at least two possible evacuation routes.
7. Leave immediately upon receiving an evacuation notice
While you may be tempted to stick around for a few minutes to gather up some of your favorite items, or because the fire doesn’t look that close, don’t. Nothing in your home is worth more than your life or your family. Even if authorities give you an hour to evacuate, it’s still best to leave as soon as possible. Wildfires, by nature, are out of control and can escalate at any time
8. Follow your communication plan
9. Protect against smoke
Use an N95 mask, if you have it. Smaller children cannot get a good seal with face mask or respirator, so it is better to use a damp cloth, like a bandana, to protect against smoke damage.
10. Don’t go home until it’s safe
Wait for authorities to say it is safe to return home. Just because you can’t see a fire, doesn’t mean the danger is gone.
Did you experience the wildfires along the west coast? Let us know what it was like, and your tips for wildfire safety.