Preparing for Wildfires

In 2018 the Camp Fire wildfire burned through more than 150,000 acres in California. Homes were burned, lives were lost, and $16.5 billion in damages were recorded. The fire started with a faulty electrical line. Many residents were driven from their homes and forced to relocate permanently. Businesses were lost and entire neighborhoods were displaced.

Experience: Interviewing a Wildfire Survivor

We interviewed a family who was forced to flee the Camp Fire and relocate. They lost their home and business to the fire and have had to rebuild from scratch. Here's what we learned:

  1. Evacuation came quickly once they realized the fire couldn't be stopped
  2. They could only take what could fit in their vehicles
  3. While they had emergency kits they wished they would have had more ready to go
  4. Grabbing documents and valuables from all over the house is harder than it seem
  5. Having a plan reduces the stress tremendously

Each year many states fight wildfires triggered by natural or manmade causes. It's important to be prepared to evacuate at a moment's notice.

Preparing for a Wildfire

Often victims of a wildfire have a bit of a warning before they must evacuate. However, that's not always the case. In either situation, it can be caotic trying to gather necessary gear, clothing, documents, equipment, etc. before leaving home. The key is to have a bunch of it ready to go and a preparedness plan in place. Everyone in the household should be trained with the plan and know what to do.

Personal Plan

Our family spends one night per year going over our plan. We make adjustments and talk through the events. They have to figure out how to get home, what gear to grab, who to check on, and where we're supposed to go if evacuated. Sometimes they are injured in the scenario so they have to care for each other. We joke around a bit while we do it but it paints a clear picture and helps us all make decisions for a real-life event.

We live in northern Idaho in the middle of the forest. Wildfires happen every year within a short distance of our home. This year fires burned less than 15 miles from our home.

We recommend you create a plan and review it with your household includings a scenario they may face. Also, acquire the gear needed to survive a wildfire.

Wildfire Preparedness Plan - Activity List

Consider the following list of activities for surviving a wildfire - customize as needed. Here's what to do to escape a wildfire:

Immediate Threat

What to do if the threat is immediate:

  1. Grab your go bag or any other survival gear on the way out of the home or area and evacuate. If you have a vehicle, choose the safest route and escape. If you don't, find a place free of smoke and flamable materials and wait for it to pass.

Experience: Ed Pulaski

In 1910 Ed Pulaski saved dozens of men by directing them into an abandoned mine. They lay prone while the fire raged and smoke filled the air. Most of the men were saved because of his quick decision.

Moderate Warning

What to do if you have some time:

  1. Gather your survival gear
    1. 72-hour kit or go Bag for each individual in the household
    2. Household survival gear - based on your modular survival system
  2. Gather emergency contact information
  3. Gather any valuables
  4. Secure the home
    1. turn off gaslines
    2. turn off main electrical breakers
    3. turn off water lines
    4. lock doors and windows
  5. Execute your movement plan for all individuals

Emergency Gear for Surviving a Wildfire - Product List

We're going to assume you have your go-bag, survival kit system, and other standard gear ready to go. This section focuses on specific, extra or alternate gear you need for a wildfire. We have tested, researched or been instructed to recommend the gear below. Feel free to customize if something doesn't fit your needs.

Consider the following list of specific, additional or alternate gear and supplies for surviving a wildfire - customize as needed:

  1. 72-hour kit or go Bag - your individual kit should have clothing, gear and supplies for 3-10 days minium
  2. Household survival gear - bags and bins of gear prepared for longer term relocation
  3. Smoke masks - each individual should have a mask to protect from smoke particulates
  4. Goggles - each individual should have a mask to protect from smoke particulates
  5. Valve turn-off wrench - use a turn-off wrench to secure your home or other buildings
  6. Spare fuel - have a couple of fuel containers full of gasoline to add range to your vehicle while evacuating - rotate the fuel with new fuel regularly
  7. Cash - have $200-500 in mixed bills for fuel, food, water, tolls, etc.
  8. Fire extinguisher - have an extinguisher on hand for spot fires

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