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Take Steps to Lower Risk of Damage

Wildfires can happen anywhere in the United States but are most common in the West. Although lightning strikes can cause wildfires, unfortunately most are started by careless human behavior.

As more and more people and businesses move into rural areas, more people and property are at risk from the dangers of wildfires. Once a wildfire starts in your area, you can't control it or prevent it from approaching your property. But you can plan in advance to minimize potential damage and injury. Review these wildfire safety tips.

Before a Wildfire

  • Know your risk. Do some research and learn how often wildfires occur in your area. Find out when there is the greatest risk and take wildfire safety precautions.
  • Evaluate your surroundings. If you're in an area with a high risk for fire, examine the landscaping around your house. Move plants or trees that are too close to your house or burn easily.
  • Clear dead plants away from your house. Dead grass and plants are easily flammable and should be cleared at least 50 feet away from your house.
  • Install smoke alarms in your house. Make sure you test the alarms periodically to ensure they are working properly.
  • Put together an emergency kit. Your kit should include first aid supplies, blankets and any personal items you may need (medications, toiletries, clothing). If you have pets, make sure they also have adequate supplies.
  • Decide in advance what you will take with you. Keep personal belongings to a minimum and only take what you absolutely must have. If you have to leave immediately for safety reasons leave everything behind.
  • Create an emergency plan. Planning in advance how you will protect your house and how you will evacuate if necessary can help minimize injury and damages. Choose a meeting place away from your home for family members to gather in case you are not together when a fire happens. Designate a neighbor to evacuate your pets in case you are not able to get home during a fire.

If a Wildfire Is Approaching

  • Prepare to evacuate. Listen to emergency channels and know the status of the fire. Put emergency supplies and must-have items in the car so you can evacuate quickly. Evacuate immediately if told to do so.
  • Protect your property. If you have time, use a hose to wet down your house, the roof and the surrounding area. Turn off the gas in the house.

After a Wildfire

  • Return only after it is safe. Do not go back to your house until officials declare it safe to do so.
  • Watch out for ash pits and hot spots. Even after a fire has been extinguished, small fires can flare up without warning. Check your house and surrounding property for hot spots and extinguish them immediately. Also watch out for ash pits-holes full of hot ashes left by burned trees. Mark off ash pits so no one falls into them and injures themselves.
  • Document the damage to your house. Take photos and video and make a written list. You will need this documentation for insurance purposes.
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