A wildfire is an uncontrolled fire in an area of combustible vegetation that occurs in the countryside or a wilderness area. Unlike many natural disasters, most wildfires are caused by people. In turn, they can also largely be prevented by people too. These days, more people are choosing to build their houses in woodland areas or remote mountain sites. While residents in these places enjoy the atmosphere of a rural setting, they also face the very real danger of wildfires. There are some specific environmental conditions that will greatly increase the likelihood of a wildfire outbreak. A wildfire can quickly spread across dry foliage and end up quickly threatening homes and businesses that are in the surrounding vicinity. Every second counts when a wildfire occurs, which is why it is important to know what to do if one happens near you. There are a number of precautions you and your family can take in order to prevent and help mitigate the situation if a wildfire does occur in your area. Here are some tips on how to prevent wildfires and what to do if you’re caught in the middle of one!
The first thing you can do to prevent a wildfire is to know and understand the risks in your area. Talk to your family and be sure they all know how to prevent and prepare for a wildfire. Prevent wildfires by always putting out unattended fires. If you see a fire, immediately report it to the local authorities. Having a monitored smoke detector in every home will greatly reduce the risk of being a victim to a fire, whether it was started inside or outside the home. Monitored smoke alarms will contact help immediately upon detecting smoke and assessing the situation. Take special care when using and fueling stoves, heaters and lanterns. Never discard cigarettes, matches and smoking materials from moving vehicles or anywhere on park grounds. Be sure to completely extinguish any of these items prior to disposing of them.
Make sure your family knows which emergency phone numbers to call if a wildfire or any type of fire occurs. One of the more important things you can do to prepare yourself and your family in the case of a wildfire is to create a “go kit.” A go kit is simply a collection of basic items you or your household may need in the event of an emergency or evacuation. Consider the following when putting together your family supply list:
- ample amount of drinking water
- a 3-day supply of non-perishable food and a can-opener
- first-aid kit with disinfectant
- flashlight with extra batteries
- battery-powered radio
- an emergency whistle
- specialty items such as baby formula/diapers/medication (if needed)
- dust masks or a bandana to filter the air
- duct tape
- extra clothing and bedding
- tent and a compass
Evacuation & Aftermath
Consider using this handy Wildfire Safety Checklist from the American Red Cross if you live in an area that is prone to wildfires. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Know your evacuation routine and practice it with your family so that everyone knows what to do if and when the time comes. If evacuated, find a body of water to crouch in until help arrives. According to the National Geographic, if there is no water nearby, find a depressed, cleared area with little vegetation, lie low to the ground, and cover your body with wet clothing, a blanket, or soil. Stay low and covered until the fire passes. Consider a monitored smoke alarm from Protect America and always have a plan!