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During a Wildfire


Hear of wildfire in your area? Spot something smoldering outside — even just a landscape bed? Immediately, if you can, extinguish it or call 911.

Get ready to evacuate

  • If there are reports of a wildfire nearby, prepare to evacuate. Be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
  • Confine pets, so that you can take them with you, if you need to leave quickly. Arrange for temporary housing at a friend or relative’s home outside the threatened area. Put on protective clothing.
  • Wear sturdy shoes, cotton or wool long pants and long-sleeved shirt, and gloves. Exposed skin is more vulnerable to ash and cinders.
  • Bring a handkerchief to protect your face. Smoke can make it difficult to breathe and damage breathing passages.

Stay informed and ready

  • Monitor local news broadcasts, and keep a lookout. Leave early, as soon as instructed and before it is essential. Waiting until the last minute, puts you at greater risk and interferes with emergency responders. Be sure that emergency kits for you, dependents, and pets are complete and loaded in the car. Back your car into the driveway park it in an open space facing the direction of escape.
  • Roll up the windows.
  • Place valuable papers, mementos and anything "you can't live without" inside the car, ready to go.
  • Call an out-of-town contact and to explain what has happened and where you will be going, if/when you leave. Turn on outside lights, and leave a light on in every room to make the house more visible in heavy smoke.

Prepare your home

If — and only if — time permits, prepare your home. Shut off natural gas, propane or fuel oil supplies at the source. Reduce drafts.

  • Close all windows and doors, including pet doors.
  • Close garage doors, and disconnect electric openers, so doors can be opened by hand, even if the power goes out.
  • Close shutters, blinds or heavy non-combustible window coverings to reduce radiant heat.
  • Open fireplace dampers, but close fireplace screens.
  • Close outside attic, eave, and basement vents.
  • Reduce combustibles. Move items such as wood piles, lawn furniture, or tarps as far as possible away from the house. Remove flammable drapes and curtains from interior windows.
  • Prepare Water. Connect garden hoses. Fill pools, hot tubs, garbage cans, tubs or other large containers with water. If there are gas-powered pumps for water, make sure they are fueled and ready.
  • Place a ladder against the house, in clear view.

If you find yourself exposed to smoke and dust

  • Listen and watch for fire reports and air quality warnings. Use the recycle or re-circulate mode on the air conditioner in your home or car. If you do not have air conditioning and it is too hot to stay inside with windows closed, seek shelter elsewhere. When smoke levels are high, keep the air indoors as clean as possible.
  • Close windows and doors to prevent smoke outside from getting in.
  • Do not use anything that burns and adds to indoor air pollution, such as candles, cigarettes, fireplaces and gas stoves. Don’t smoke.
  • Do not vacuum because it stirs up particles that are already inside.
  • If you have asthma or another lung disease, follow your health-care provider's advice. If you symptoms worsen, seek medical care

If fire is approaching or authorities advise you to leave

  • Evacuate immediately! Head for safety, taking special care of dependents.
  • Wear protective clothing.
  • Leave doors and windows closed but unlocked. Firefighters may need a quick entry, and police will provide security.
  • Take your pets with you.
  • Choose an escape route that steers as clear of the fire as possible. Watch for changes in the speed and direction of fire and smoke. Continue to listen to local radio or TV for evacuation information.

If you encounter a wildfire while driving

  • Stay in your car. Though driving through wildfire is dangerous, it is much less dangerous than trying to run from a fire on foot. Do not run! Roll up windows and close air vents. Be prepared for discomfort.
  • Engines may stall and be tough to restart.
  • Air currents may rock the car.
  • Some smoke and sparks may enter the vehicle.
  • The temperature inside will increase. Metal gas tanks and containers rarely explode.
  • Keep your vehicle as visible as possible.
    • Drive slowly with headlights on.
    • Avoid driving through heavy smoke.
    • Watch out for other vehicles and pedestrians.
  • If you have to stop,
    • Avoid parking near heavy trees and brush.
    • Roll up windows and close air vents.
    • Turn the headlights on and the ignition off.
    • Get on the floor and cover up with a blanket or coat.
    • Stay in the vehicle until the main fire passes.

If you find yourself trapped at home

  • Stay inside and away from outside walls.
  • Close doors, but leave them unlocked.
  • Try to remain calm and, if you are with other people, stay together.

If caught in the open

The best temporary shelter is in a sparse fuel area. If a road is nearby, lie face down along the road cut or in the ditch on the uphill side. Cover yourself with anything that will shield you from the fire's heat. If hiking in the back country, seek an area, ideally a depression, with sparse fuel.

  • On a steep mountainside, the back side is safer. Avoid canyons, natural chimneys and saddles.
  • Clear fuel such as leaves and twigs, away from the area while the fire is approaching and then lie face down and cover yourself.
  • Stay down until after the fire passes!

For more information on wildfires, see: