Safety tips before, during and after a wildfire


Keep safety at top of mind when wildfire threatens.


Consider these tips to help you and your family before, during and after a wildfire. But if an evacuation is ordered, do not delay; safety is your first priority.


  • Assemble emergency supplies and belongings in a safe place
  • Prepare materials, such as pre-cut plywood or commercial seals, for use to seal attic, soffit and foundation vents
  • Develop, discuss and practice an emergency action plan with everyone in your home
  • Create a plan for large animals and livestock that may need transport and establish that safe location early
  • Prepare a list of contact numbers to include family, friends, neighbors and your insurance agent
  • Establish an out-of-area contact (such as relative or friend) who can coordinate family members’ locations and information should you become separated
  • Give children contact numbers in case they are separated from adult family members
  • Know evacuation routes. Pre-establish several different routes in case roads are blocked or closed
  • Stay aware of the latest news and updates from your local media and fire department. Get your family prepared to evacuate.
  • Make sure all cell phones and portable chargers are fully charged
  • Download apps to stay informed: Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), American Red Cross, Cal Fire Ready for Wildfire
  • Access or check social media – many fire agencies put updates about evacuation areas and road closures on Facebook and Twitter
  • Locate your pets and keep them nearby
  • Place your emergency supply kit and other valuables in your vehicle
  • While preparing to evacuate, back your vehicle into the driveway with the doors and windows closed. Carry the vehicle key with you
  • Cover up to protect yourself from heat, smoke and embers. Wear long pants and boots; cover your face
  • Move patio or deck furniture, cushions, door mats and potted plants held in wooden containers either indoors or as far away from the home, shed and garage as possible
  • Remove log piles, paint, building materials and other combustibles 30 feet from structures
  • Shut all windows and doors
  • Remove flammable window shades, lightweight curtains or flammable draperies
  • Move flammable furniture away from windows and doors
  • Close and protect your home’s openings, including attic and basement doors and vents, windows, garage doors and pet doors to prevent embers from penetrating your home
  • Shut off gas at the meter; turn off pilot lights
  • Move propane grill and tank at least 30 feet from all structures; turn off propane tanks
  • Shut off air conditioning
  • Place ladders near home for firefighters to use to access roof
  • Connect garden hoses and fill any pools, hot tubs, garbage cans, tubs or other large containers with water
  • Shut off sprinklers, water features or other water-users to help maintain critical water pressure in the area
  • Leave as quickly as possible. If you know fire is approaching, do not wait to be told to evacuate. Do not linger after evacuation orders have been given. Promptly leaving your home and neighborhood clears roads for firefighters to get equipment in place to fight the fire and helps ensure residents’ safety
  • Leave exterior lights on, so your home is visible to firefighters
  • Leave property gates open to allow emergency personnel to respond and defend your property
  • Check with neighbors and encourage them to leave as soon as possible

If you’re on foot:

  • Use cell phone to call for help – 911
  • Go to an area clear of vegetation, a ditch or depression on level ground
  • Watch for obstructions that may cause you to trip or bump your head
  • Watch for downed powerlines and do not touch
  • Lie face down and cover up your entire body
  • If you do not have clothing to cover your body, cover yourself with dirt

If you’re inside your home:

  • Call 911 and advise of your location
  • Keep your family and pets together
  • Fill sinks and tubs with cold water
  • Keep doors and windows closed, but unlocked
  • Stay inside
  • Stay away from outside walls and windows

If you’re inside your car:

  • Use your cell phone to advise officials of your location – call 911
  • Park your vehicle in an area clear of vegetation, on a gravel or dirt road
  • Close all vehicle windows and vents
  • Cover yourself with wool blanket or jacket
  • Leave the engine running and get as low in the vehicle as possible, below the windows, to help shield yourself from the radiant heat as the flames approach
  • Remain calm, and do not exit the vehicle until the wall of fire has passed
  • Wait until evacuation orders are lifted and fire officials determine it is safe to return home
  • Wear leather boots, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt to protect yourself from hot spots or broken glass
  • Wear a mask if smoke and ash are present
  • Be alert for downed power lines
  • Check the outside area around your home and on your property carefully for hidden embers or smoldering fires, unstable charred trees, ash pits or holes created by burned vegetation
  • Check roof, gutters, porch and patios for embers or smoldering debris and extinguish any signs of them
  • Check for the smell of gas immediately upon entering home. If you smell gas, leave the structure and turn off the tank or outside valve if you didn’t turn it off prior to evacuating
  • Check electrical power. If there is power, keep it off until you’ve completed your inspection. If there is no power, report it to utility provider
  • Turn off all appliances and make sure the electric meter is not damaged before turning on the main circuit breaker
  • Check the well or pump-house to ensure it is in working order
  • Check roof and floors for structural safety
  • Check propane tanks, regulators and lines for damage before turning gas on
  • Inspect chimneys, flue pipes and vent connectors for damage, blockage or debris
  • Check for embers or smoke in attic or crawl space
  • Look for ashes or broken glass inside the home
  • Be aware that animals or wildlife may have taken shelter in your home, garage or outbuildings. Leave a door open to allow them to exit on their own. If an animal is injured or unwilling to leave, contact animal control
  • If your home or contents have damage, do not start to clean or throw anything away until you’ve contacted your insurance agent or carrier. Ask them what to do about broken windows, interior damage or any actions that need to be taken immediately to secure the home
  • Take pictures or a video to document damage to your structures or your belongings
  • Throw away the following items if they may have been exposed to fumes, water or chemicals:
    • Fresh food such as produce, dairy, meat, fish and eggs
    • Open containers and packages
    • Containers with peel-off tops or with cork-lined, waxed cardboard or paraffin (waxed) seals
    • Food in cardboard boxes or wrapped in paper, foil, plastic, cellophane or cloth
    • Items in canisters such as flour, sugar, spices, seasonings and extracts
    • Stored raw foods such as potatoes, apples and onions


This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article. Contact your local, independent insurance agent for coverage advice and policy service.

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