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Wildfire Evacuations

Getting Out Safely Takes a Smart Approach


Updated January 23, 2014

Much of the West is plagued by wildfires every year. During a wildfire, thousands of homes and millions of acres of wilderness can be destroyed. If you live in an area prone to wildfires (sometimes called brush fires or forest fires) then you need to be ready to get out.

Emergency Supplies

When wildfires threaten, you won't have time to shop or search for supplies. Before a wildfire comes, put together a kit with items you may need if advised to evacuate. Store these supplies in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers such as backpacks, duffle bags, storage or trash containers.
  • Bottled water for 3 days (1 gallon per person per day)
  • Food that won't spoil, enough for 3 days
  • A change of clothing and one blanket or sleeping bag per person
  • A first aid kit that includes your family's prescription medications
  • Personal medical information for each person
  • Emergency tools including a battery-powered radio, flashlight, and plenty of extra batteries
  • An extra set of car keys and a credit card, cash, or traveler's checks
  • Sanitation supplies and toiletries
  • Any special items for infant, elderly, or disabled family members, or pets
  • An extra pair of eye-glasses
  • Important family documents (birth certificates, social security cards, marriage certificates, deeds, insurance information) in a waterproof, fire-resistant container
  • A smaller version of your kit in the trunk of your car

When Wildfires Threaten

If you are warned that a wildfire is threatening the area around your home, listen to a battery-powered radio for reports and evacuation information. Do not trust electrical power service to continue. Follow the instructions of local officials.

To prepare for evacuation:

  • Point your vehicle in the direction of escape. If you put it in a garage, back it in. Keep car doors closed and roll up the windows. Leave the key in the ignition.
  • Close garage windows and doors, but leave them unlocked. Disconnect automatic garage door openers; you don't want to be messing with a stuck garage door when it comes time to leave.
  • Put pets in one room. Make plans to care for your pets in case you must evacuate.
  • Arrange temporary housing outside the threatened area. Use friends or relatives, if possible, to conserve resources for others.

If you are told to evacuate, do so immediately!

  • Wear long sleeves and long pants -- cotton or woolen clothing. Natural fibers don't burn as easily as synthetics.
  • Wear sturdy shoes or boots -- nothing with an open toe.
  • Tie a handkerchief around your neck and use it to protect your face in smoky conditions.
  • Take your emergency supplies kit (see above).
  • Lock your home.
  • Tell someone when you left and where you are going.
  • Choose a route away from fire hazards. Watch for changes in the speed and direction of fire and smoke.

If There's Time

If you have not yet been told to evacuate and are sure you have time, take these steps to protect your home. Take these steps only after you are fully prepared to evacuate.

Inside the house:

  • Close all windows, vents, doors, blinds, or noncombustible window coverings and heavy drapes. Remove flammable, lightweight curtains.
  • Shut off all utilities if possible, including bottled gas.
  • Open fireplace damper and close fireplace screens.
  • Move flammable furniture into the center of the home away from windows and sliding glass doors.
  • Turn on a battery-powered light in each room to increase the visibility of your home as smoke gets thicker.

Outside the house:

  • Seal attic and ground vents with precut noncombustible coverings.
  • Turn off propane tanks and electrical power.
  • Move combustible patio furniture inside.
  • Don't rely on electric pumps for water. Set up a portable gasoline-powered pump if available and run lawn sprinklers on the roof and near any aboveground fuel tanks. Wetting the roof may help if it is shake-shingled.
  • Soak or remove shrubs within 15 feet of the home.


"Wildfire - Are You Prepared?." 27 Jun 2007. US Fire Administration/FEMA. USFA. 24 Oct 2007


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