Tips for Surviving a Wildfire

Tips for Surviving a Wildfire

While wildfires can strike nearly anywhere in the United States, they are typically more common in the western United States. In the first six months of 2015, there were nearly 30,000 wildfires throughout the U.S.—these fires burned up a grand total of over three million acres. Whether lightning starts wildfires naturally or they’re created by human action, wildfires can be terribly destructive. One of the most devastating wildfires in the U.S. was the Oakland fire of 1991 in California. This fire, which burned up 1,520 acres, claimed the lives of 25 people. It also destroyed nearly 3,000 single-family homes, over 400 apartments and caused well over $1.5 billion dollars’ worth of damage. Wildfires can happen quickly, so if you live in an area that’s wildfire-prone, then make sure to prepare yourself in advance.

What is a wildfire?

A wildfire is a large fire that typically starts in dry, wooded or brush-covered areas and spreads rapidly. Sometimes these fires start naturally (lightning strikes are often common causes), and many plants and trees like Sequoias actually need fires in order to spread their seeds effectively. In drought-prone areas like California, people sometimes accidently (or purposefully) start wildfires. Whatever the cause, these fires can move swiftly and can be quite dangerous.

How to prepare for a wildfire?

Simply put, you can’t fight a wildfire, so leave the actual firefighting to the professionals. But you can minimize the chances of your home catching fire due to an encroaching wildfire by following a few basic protocols. Firstly, make sure any firewood is stored away from you home. Also, make sure that any dead foliage (especially in your gutter) is completely cleared away, and if there is any vegetation that might prove to be a fire risk, then quickly remove them. Close all windows and vents to prevent embers or smoke from entering your home. Make sure you have an emergency kit or medical kit on hand, and also take some time to water your home’s walls and roof with a hose—this will make it more difficult for the structure to catch fire.

What to do during a wildfire?

First and foremost, if you can, please evacuate your home for safer ground. Make sure you have ready-made emergency meals and water, as well as a medical kit, packed in your car. Your local police and fire departments will most likely lay out an evacuation route, so simply follow their directions concerning where you need to do. If, for whatever reason, you can’t evacuate by car, then do whatever it takes to stay away from the fire. Avoid smoke inhalation whenever possible, and move as quickly as possible to safer ground.

What to do after a wildfire?

Following a wildfire, there might be an ample amount of devastation, and secondary fires may flare up in its wake. Wait for your local fire and police departments to give an all-clear message, and then contact your insurance agent to notify them of any damages. Avoid any downed power lines, and do your best to avoid inhaling any smoke.

When it comes to wildfires, your only option is to simply evacuate as quickly as possible. However, by practicing your evacuation route, and by stocking your car with emergency supplies, you can make your evacuation as comfortable and efficient as possible.

Sources:

http://www.sfmuseum.org/oakfire/overview.html
http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/wildfires/duringfire.asp

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