How to Prepare for a Wildfire

From temperature extremes and unprecedented droughts to devastating tornadoes and destructive flooding, it seems like there are news reports of global weather disasters every other day.

Unfortunately, many of these occurrences are out of our control, but being prepared for when a wildfire strikes can help you navigate a dangerous situation.

So how do you prepare for wildfires? Here at Duromax, we’ve built this comprehensive fire safety guide to help outline a few emergency preparedness strategies you can use if you’re ever faced with this natural disaster.

What is a Wildfire?
A wildfire is a quick spreading, uncontrolled fire that can be particularly destructive to residential areas. It burns through the landscape and scorches everything in its path. A common environmental event, in 2021 alone, there were more than 50,000 wildfires in the continental United States.

What Causes Wildfires?
Although sometimes ignited by natural causes (like lightning), wildfires nowadays are started due to human negligence. Human error has been a primary driver of recent fires, including the infamous El Dorado blaze of 2020 that ignited due to a gender-reveal party gone wrong.

Discarded cigarettes, unattended campfires, arson, and debris burns are some of the culprits that can incite this type of disaster.

Why And How to Prepare for a Wildfire
According to a recent report by the United Nations, the global threat of wildfires is rapidly rising, with the risk of catastrophic fires increasing by as much as 50% in the next hundred years.
Sky-high temperatures and lack of rainfall are extending typical wildfire seasons in high-risk areas like California and causing wildfire fears in regions not previously prone to seasonal burning.

Completing a wildfire preparedness checklist available from government agencies—like CAL FIRE—will start you on the right path.

Wildfire Risk Assessment
The first step in wildfire preparation is taking a tour of your property to assess potential hazards. Risk minimization is a key tenet to overall preparedness for natural disasters.

Factors to check around your home and property include but are not limited to:

● Home and outbuildings – Identify what materials in and around your home are highly combustible and take action to minimize fire risk. Pine needles, leaves, wood pile, and yard waste can all be tinder. Clear areas that accumulate debris like gutters and under decks. Consider using materials such as slate, brick, or stone in future construction rather than wood to reduce combustibility.

● Infrastructure – Make sure roads, gas, water, and electric access points are all clearly marked and free of debris. Additionally, ensure that your address is distinctly labeled and know exactly how to turn off utilities when needed (this might necessitate a phone call to your utilities company).

● Landscape – Check for pest damage, dead or diseased trees, invasive vegetation, and unkempt or overgrown spaces, as they can be potential flammability hazards. If you live in a high-risk area, we advise that you consult with your fire officials or a forestry specialist.

Gather Emergency Supplies
Next, have an emergency plan in place. The American Red Cross recommends having a kit prepared ahead of time. Supplies can diminish quickly when disaster strikes, so having a reserve can be the most important safeguard.

To that end, some suggested items to include in an emergency kit are:

● Water
● Nonperishable food items
● Medications
● Copies of important documents
● Flashlight and radio
● First aid supplies
● Personal hygiene products
● Pocket knife or multipurpose tool
● Emergency blanket
● Cash
● Change of clothes
● Area maps with pre-designated evacuation routes
● Power sources (like batteries and generators)

Emergency kits can be a literal lifesaver when the power grid goes down, and you’re hunkering down at home. Additionally, if you need to mobilize, you can take them with you.

For instance, adding a generator into your emergency reserve can become your life buoy when utilities are down. It allows you to power your appliances, avoid food waste, and keep necessary electronics charged and ready.

Do You Stay or Do You Go?
Wildfires are unpredictable, and many factors can influence their range and intensity—including wind, water, and emergency response time. Being in a fire zone often requires a watch and wait approach, keeping a close eye on burn trajectory, and making decisions based on that data.

Evacuating at the drop of a hat can be terrifying. Still, it’s paramount that you pay attention to emergency alerts from local government agencies, who will ultimately give the evacuation order.

Should this occur, it’s crucial to be prepared and ready to leave (see section above).

Wildfire Evacuation Checklist
Preparing for an evacuation is part and parcel with preparing for a wildfire. For instance, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection suggests the following to prepare for evacuation:

● Have a wildfire action plan (and a backup) – Walk through possible evacuation scenarios and understand the action plans of your community. Be aware of emergency gathering points and know the safest and quickest routes from your location (as well as backup routes in case of road closures or obstructions). If you have pets or farm animals, have a wildfire safety and evacuation plan ready for them too.

● Be packed and ready – Have an emergency bag packed for each family member, including medical necessities and important documents. Your vehicle should be loaded and pointed toward the exit (keep your car keys handy). If an RV or camper is part of your evacuation plan, don’t forget to include a portable generator for RV to ensure you’ll still have electricity. And always observe generator safety when using it.

● Prepare for first responders – If your property ends up in the line of fire, you should also be ready for first responders. Some suggested steps include placing a ladder for easy roof access, hooking up outdoor hoses and filling water buckets, turning off gas lines, and leaving exterior lights on for ease of visibility in heavy wildfire smoke.

In these situations—no matter the consequences—safety is always the priority. Being prepared to evacuate can both minimize risk and potentially save the lives of you and your loved ones.

Steps To Take After A Wildfire
Once the wildfire has been contained or extinguished and you’re given the go-ahead to return home, here are a few things to keep in mind (as recommended by the CDC):

● Monitor air quality reports to reduce smoke exposure

● Protect yourself and your family against residual ash that can cause irritation, especially for vulnerable demographics, including covering your skin and eyes, and, if possible, wearing an N95 respirator

● Take extra precautions when traveling or returning home if you had to evacuate, as fire officials may not have cleared debris and damage yet

● Be cognizant of hazards such as carbon monoxide poisoning and electrocution during cleanup procedures, and follow recommendations for safety protocols

● Take care of your mental health and seek support for emotional distress

Most Destructive Wildfires In Recent History
Now that you’ve gained an overview of how to prepare for a wildfire, it’s important that we touch on the gravity of these events.

Take California, for instance. In the past five years, eight of the state’s ten worst blazes have burned through massive swathes of land and caused billions of dollars in damages.

Disturbingly, some of the largest and most deadly wildfires in US history have occurred in the last decade alone:

● 2021 Dixie Fire – The second-largest fire in California history, the Dixie Fire burned through almost half a million acres in the northern part of the state.

● 2020 Bay Area Fire – Just under one million acres of land burned in this blaze that spread beyond California into Oregon and Washington and killed 35 people.

● 2018 Camp Fire – This fire burned over 150,000 acres and resulted in 85 casualties, rendering it the deadliest wildfire in California history.

● 2017 Tubbs Fire – The Tubbs Fire impacted Sonoma, Napa, and the city of Santa Rosa, killing 22 people and destroying more than 30,000 acres.

Trust In DuroMax When Disaster Strikes
Devastating weather-related disasters like tornadoes, floods, and wildfires continue to threaten our states. Education (particularly regarding preparedness) around these events should be common knowledge, and it’s a mission we champion here at DuroMax. Visit our hurricane preparedness post to keep you and your family safe.

As aforementioned, part of being ready for a wildfire is having the resources you need when disaster strikes. And here, we sell high-quality, durable generators that can keep the power on when the lights go out.

Stay vigilant, map an evacuation route, and include every necessity in your safety reserve. By doing so, you’re minimizing the risks inherent to natural catastrophes and protecting yourself, your family, and your community.