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10 Tips to Protect Your Family From Wildfires

Alena Hart | JUL 4, 2018

Last year was the most destructive wildfire season the west coast has ever seen.

In California, forty-three people were killed by over 9,000 fires. More than 1.3 million acres were destroyed.

By September, the fires in Washington state had caused the air to reach a “hazardous” level. Governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency across all Washington counties.

In Oregon, over 450,000 acres were destroyed by fires that grew so bad, Interstate 84 had to be shut down for several days.

The massive losses of 2017 were greater than the previous 10 years combined.

As fires burn once more across the country, we are reminded how quickly they can get out of control.

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

 You can learn more about that here. Talk to your youngest family members about wildfire safety.

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.