On June 18, an enormous wildfire swept through an area of central Portugal. More than 60 people died, half of whom were trapped in their vehicles, according to news reports. Although most wildfires over the past 10 years have been caused by people, this wildfire was caused by nature. Portuguese authorities said that the fire was caused by lightning during dry thunderstorms.
With this tragic event, many people can’t help but ask “Would I know what to do in a wildfire?”
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also known as Cal Fire, if you’re trapped in a vehicle during a wildfire, it’s important to stay calm. Park your vehicle away from vegetation and close all windows and vents. Cover yourself with a wool blanket or jacket and lie on your vehicle’s floor. Use your cellphone to call 911.
If you find yourself on foot and not near a home or building, Cal Fire recommends finding an area clear of vegetation, such as a ditch or depression on ground level. Lie face down, cover yourself and call 911.
If you’re at home during a wildfire, stay inside and fill your sinks and tubs with water. Close your doors and windows but don’t lock them. Stay back from outside walls and windows and listen for emergency updates.
Preparing for a wildfire begins long before the first wisp of smoke, however. If you have not already, make an emergency plan. Then set aside time to practice. This will help ensure that if a wildfire does happen, you and those you live with will be able to act quickly. You also want to have emergency supplies and keep them in an easily accessible place. Be sure you have a way of receiving emergency information from officials. This can be a radio, phone or other device. Cal Fire recommends evacuating as soon as authorities recommend it.
Remember, wildfires are uncontrolled and unplanned, so being able to act quickly is in your best interest.
Read our fact sheet for more information and check out this wildfire evacuation guide.
Photo courtesy FEMA/Jana Baldwin