As U.S. droughts and heat reach their highest level in years in many parts of the country, we’re also seeing more of another serious threat: wildfires.
California is facing one of its worst wildfire seasons, with thousands of buildings destroyed and about a dozen deaths. But it’s not just California that’s suffering.
During the first six months of 2018 alone, federal officials counted almost 38,000 fires that burned 4.8 million acres of land. And with the changing U.S. climate, wildfires are expected to worsen. A recent study shows that by 2100, deaths from wildfire smoke could double.
It’s also important to be personally prepared for wildfires. In general, you should:
• Know your evacuation route. Include a meeting place and a contact person. Pay attention to evacuation orders and never hesitate if told to leave.
• Put together an evacuation kit that you can take with you at a moment’s notice. Make sure it includes a battery-operated radio, flashlight, bottled water, first-aid kit, cellphone chargers, important documents and medications.
• If you’re in a car and see a wildfire, stay in your car. Don’t try to outrun the fire on foot. Roll up your car windows and close the vents. Drive slowly and keep your headlights on. If you have to stop, park away from heavy brush and vegetation.
For more tips, see our Get Ready fact sheet. Stay safe and informed about wildfires and remember that the safest wildfire is one that never starts.
Photo caption: A man searches for belongings in a Rancho Bernardo, California, home destroyed by wildfires in 2007. FEMA Photo by Andrea Booher