Friday, June 15, 2012

Summer Safe: Learn how to get ready for a wildfire

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Did you catch the news this week about the wildfires that have burned thousands of acres in Colorado and New Mexico?

Unfortunately, with the hot, dry weather that often comes this time of year, wildfires are more common. Plus, this week scientists reported that because of climate change, an increase in wildfires is expected over the next 30 years. That’s why we thought now would be a good time to talk about getting ready for wildfires.

Wildfires can start from natural causes like lightning, but most are caused by humans, such as when people leave campfires unattended or don’t dispose of burning cigarettes safely. (Learn more about fire prevention here: However it starts, a wildfire can spread quickly, burning forests and buildings in its path. Aside from the dangers of the actual fire, wildfires are also a health threat because of their heavy smoke, which can cause headaches, breathing trouble and chest pain and can cause extra health complications. 

Image of wildfire burning on a hil with a residential neighboorhood at the foot of the hill.

Here are some quick steps you can take to prepare for wildfires:

  • Find out about your community’s risk for wildfires. Check to see if there is a local wildfire warning system and know the evacuation routes.
  • If you live in an area at risk for wildfires, make sure your property is safe: Clean your roof, gutters and property of dried leaves regularly. Move things that will burn, like gas tanks or stacks of firewood, away from your house. Have fire extinguishers and smoke detectors in your home, and check them regularly.
  • Have an emergency kit, ideally in a bag or container that you can grab and take with you in case of evacuation.
  • Make a plan with your loved ones, so that if you need to evacuate quickly, you’ll know where to go. Don’t forget to pick an out-of-town emergency contact who everyone can check in with, in case local phone lines are busy.
  • If you see a wildfire, call 9-1-1 immediately.
  • If you are in a car and see a wildfire, stay in the car, roll up the windows and close the vents. Drive slowly and keep your lights on. (Check out our Driving & Disasters Fact Sheet for more info ).
  • If you are home, close all doors and windows and take care not to breathe in smoke. If you are told to evacuate, do so immediately.

For more information about preparing for wildfires, check out our Get Ready Fact Sheet on Wildfires, in English and Spanish. You can also visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s website for more information about what to do before, during and after a wildfire.

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