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How to Prepare Your Family In Case of a Wildfire

Jun 29, 2020 12:08PM ● By Editor

By Ally Hirschlag of The Weather Channel - Posted: June 28, 2029


Wildfires are stunning, volatile, extraordinarily dangerous forces of nature that can destroy thousands of acres of land in a matter of hours. If you've ever been near one, you know how terrifying they can be — not just because of their ability to destroy everything in their path, but because of the widespread impact they can have on people who aren't even in the "line of fire." 

And they're only expected to get worse. According to a recent climate study, California could see a 77% increase in the amount of land burned by wildfires. The state's (as well as the world's) climate is getting hotter and drier, and while there isn't a clearcut link to climate change, the connection to industrialization and agricultural development is almost certainly a factor.

All this may sound insurmountable, but there are steps you can take to protect, yourself, your family and your property from the devastation caused by wildfires. Here's how.

When you're in range of the smoke

(Getty Images/Robert Lang Photography)

When wildfires burn, toxic pollutants (a combination of gases and particulate matter) are released into the air, and often carried many miles away, affecting communities nowhere near the burning land. The smoke from the Camp Fire in Butte County, California, for example, eventually blanketed San Francisco which is over 160 miles away. According to the NOAA, continued exposure to these pollutants can be extremely harmful, especially for young children, the elderly, and those with respiratory illnesses. Some of the potential effects include burning eyes, coughing, shortness of breath and asthma attacks.

There are plenty of ways to stave off these effects, however, and they start with staying indoors. The CDC recommends that while you're inside, keep the air as clean as possible by changing your ac filters often, and running a separate, freestanding air filter. If you must go outside, do not rely on dust masks as they only protect you from large particles like sawdust. An N95 mask that's worn correctly is the best defense against fire smoke. They're relatively inexpensive, so if can't hurt to have several on hand for you and your loved ones should the need arise. Learn more about how to effectively use respirators here

Prepare your home for a wildfire

(Getty Images/Jared Eygabroad / EyeEm)

It's a common assumption that wildfires will destroy any house in their path, but that's actually not the case. There are steps you can take to sure up your home so that it stands the best chance against the blaze. You can make your roof fire resistant by upgrading the outer material. Fiber-glass-based asphalt shingles, rubber recycled tiles, clay tiles and metal tiles are just a few of the noncombustible options from which to choose. 

As for your home's exterior walls, stucco and brick are naturally fire-retardant. Stone siding and fiber-cement shingles and clapboards are also great options. 

If a fire is days away

The Holy Fire At Lake Elsinore On August 9, 2018
(Getty Images/Kevin Key / Slworking)

Protect your home by clearing a 30 foot parameter, or "defense zone", around it. That means getting rid of as much brush, dried leaves, fallen branches and wood piles as possible. This could potentially keep the fire from catching onto your property. 

Make sure you have a sprinkler or hose that works and is accessible. 

Prepare a "Go" bag should you need to evacuate. This can also double as an emergency kit if you get trapped in your home and are awaiting rescue. 

Learn fire safety dos and don'ts and teach them to your family. Have regular fire drills so everyone knows where to go and what to do. 

Have an escape plan for how to get out of the house quickly and safely. Make sure everyone memorizes the appropriate numbers to call/text should you get separated. 

Check every sleeping area for smoke detectors and confirm that they work.

When the fire is encroaching on your home

(Getty Images/MLGXYZ)

Make sure all windows and doors are closed, and air vents are sealed with duct tape.

Pack valuables and your "Go" bag in the car, and face it out toward the street in your driveway so you can leave quickly.

Turn off the gas and move any propane tanks (like for a gas grill) away from your home.

Turn off your lights and unplug electrical appliances. 

Move all flammable materials, like curtains, away from windows and doors.

Stay connected to your local emergency broadcast station or app for updates on road closures, and plan to evacuate if it looks like your home is in the fire's path. 

To read the original article and see related safety reporting, follow this link to The Weather Channel website.  https://weather.com/safety/wildfires/news/2019-09-19-how-prepare-family-case-wildfire#/5


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