With the temperatures rising, the rate of wildfires is increasing. So having a wildfire safety plan in place can save your life!
Given the power of forest fires, it’s easy to think they sit alongside earthquakes and hurricanes as natural disasters. Unfortunately, most wildfires are actually caused by people! And, with 629,531 acres burned in 2018 compared to 223,238 in 2017 between January and August, they’re becoming more commonplace. As a result, it’s important to have a wildfire safety plan in the event of fires in your area. While being aware and prepared to evacuate is key, there are preventative measures you and your family can take.
How does a wildfire occur?
Wildfires can cause all kinds of damage, whether they take place in a forest, a grassland or on the prairies. It might be a surprising statistic, but according to the U.S. Department of the Interior up to 90 percent of wildfires are human-caused. Whether it’s from cigarettes, campfires or negligence, they’ve led to approximately $5.1 billion in losses in the last 10 years! With summers heating up, the destruction that dry conditions can create is worsening. This means that natural ecosystems are even more vulnerable to wildfires. As a result, it’s important to be aware of wildfire safety precautions if you live in an area that is prone to them.
What are some wildfire safety tips?
There are a few wildfire safety tips you should know to ensure you’re ready. While an evacuation alert means you should be prepared to leave, an evacuation order means you’re at risk. In the event of an order, it’s important to follow the guidelines so you and your family can stay safe. This means being aware of two routes out of your neighborhood and any applicable road closures. You’ll want to pack up the items needed in the event that you have to leave your neighborhood quickly. Also, ensure that you wear protective clothing and footwear. Before leaving your home, remove any combustibles like firewood, barbecues and fuel cans from your yard. Close all doors and windows, as they’ll only strengthen a fire if left ajar.
What do you do after a wildfire?
When you return home from a wildfire safety zone post-evacuation, there are steps to take to ensure your well-being. If your home has experienced severe fire damage, you should contact officials for temporary housing options. Financial assistance may also be provided in certain situations. However, if you are going home ensure that it’s OK for you to do so before proceeding. There may still be hot spots so wear protective gear when cleaning up and watch for hazards. Before eating or drinking anything that may have been exposed to fire, make sure it’s safe. You’ll also want to check your water supply for signs of contamination.
As you clean, take note of any damaged goods in your house. You’ll need these for insurance purposes. If you evacuate, you might even want these photos before you leave, so you can prove that any damaged items came from the fire. If the air is smoky and quality remains poor, small children, pregnant women and the elderly should be particularly cautious.
How can we prevent wildfires?
Wildfire safety might seem out of our hands, but with so many human-caused fires there are things we can do. If you’re camping, make sure not to spill any flammable liquids and let them cool before refueling. A campfire may look like its out, but douse it with water and make sure it’s completely black. If you’re using matches or cigarettes, extinguish them before you discard them.
When local fire bans are in place, it’s important to be cautious and stick to the posted restrictions. If you do come across a fire or irresponsible behavior, contact the local fire department or park service. While there may not be a lot one can do when wildfires burn, prevention is the best step to take.
With the summer heat and a changing climate, there are a lot more wildfires to worry about these days. If you have experience with wildfires and other evacuation procedures, please share them in our comments section. While we may not all be able to fight the fire, we can prepare for them with a wildfire safety plan.