Most of us are familiar with fire safety inside the home. It’s a topic we start talking about as children. Current events remind us that we shouldn’t only prepare for fires that start within. We need to worry about wildfires, too.

Wildfires are very dangerous. They can move quickly, not just engulfing homes and cutting off escape paths. With some sound preparation, however, you can maximize your odds of escaping a wildfire and hopefully minimize the damage to your property.

  1. Safety starts at home
    You can protect your home on a day-to-day basis by clearing a nice, wide swath of land around your house of combustibles. That means cleaning up fallen limbs, leaves, pine cones, and dead shrubbery. It also means properly and safely storing home flammables like engine oil and lawnmower gasoline. If you add to landscaping, consider planning it and making purchases that would reduce the risk of wildfire.
  2. Plan to escape
    Find out if your community has designated evacuation routes, or shelters for you to relocate to in case of fire. If alternative shelter isn’t readily available, make plans with friends or family, or find a hotel distant from where you live that you can get to. Store valuables in a way that they can be retrieved quickly in case of fire. Make sure to keep a ready-to-go emergency supplies kit, which should include one gallon of water per person, non-perishable food, copies of medication prescriptions, and a sturdy, reliable radio to stay informed during your evacuation.
  3. Alert the fire department if you see a fire
    If you see smoke or flames in nearby grassland or forest, immediately contact your local fire department. Don’t assume someone else has. In the case of a wildfire, it’s critical to get it under control and extinguished before it gets too large to easily control. Monitor the local news in case it does grow too large to control.
  4. If you have time as a fire approaches…
    If a wildfire approaches your home, don’t be a hero and think you can put it out by yourself. But if you have time, you can take a few quick additional steps before you bug out that can maybe spare your home. Make sure that any swimming pools are filled with water and the immediate area around your home is completely free of anything that can easily catch on fire. Close doors and windows to your home to prevent easy circulation of oxygen, a key fuel for fires.
  5. Make your way to safety
    Once that is done, follow the evacuation route you mapped out. Keep your radio turned on and dialed into a station providing emergency management information. This will help you stay informed about whether the route you’ve picked is still safe. If emergency management officials report that a road you need to travel on is in danger of being cut off, use an alternative route.

Just to summarize

There are five basic steps you can take to prepare for a wildfire.

  1. Make your home as fireproofed as possible.
  2. Make an evacuation plan ahead of time.
  3. Contact the local fire department immediately at first sign of a wildfire.
  4. If you have time, take a few quick precautions as you prepare to evacuate.
  5. Finally, get out, but stay informed in case you need to amend your original escape plan.


FEMA – How to prepare for wildfires