A wildfire is burning out of control, and your house is in its path. What do you do?
Most importantly, if you have been ordered to evacuate by authorities, get out immediately. Leave with your family, pets, important papers and whatever portable prized possessions you can quickly pack. Lingering could be fatal.
If no evacuation has been ordered, but you anticipate that one could be in the near future, here are 10 things you can do to make your home safer, according to Cal Fire, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Weather Underground and DisasterSafety.org.
1. Call 911 to inform authorities of your location and the location of the fire.
2. Shut off your house’s gas supply. Move propane tanks at least 100 feet away from the house.
3. Fill sinks and tubs with cold water.
4. Keep doors and windows closed but not locked. Leave the chimney damper open, but cover the fireplace opening with a screen.
5. Turn off air-conditioning. Unplug televisions, small appliances and other electronics.
6. If you have time, remove debris from your roof and gutters. Ideally you’ll have done this as part of regular maintenance. It’s critical that the roof be free of dried vegetation like leaves and pine needles because of the danger of falling embers.
7. The same goes for vents in your attic or crawl space. Any debris buildup should be removed and the vents covered with plywood, metal tape or duct tape.
8. Connect all hoses to outside taps. Wet your roof by placing a lawn sprinkler on it. Use a sprinkler to soak shrubs within 15 feet of the house. Fill buckets with water and place them outside around the house. If you have a ladder, leave it out so firefighters can use it to get on the roof if needed.
9. Move furniture away from windows and doors, and take down lightweight or non-fire-resistant window treatments. Combustible patio furniture should be placed inside or in a garage.
10. Leave a note so that in the event of evacuation others will know where you are going.
The best way to increase the chances of your home surviving a wildfire is to take measures weeks or months before a blaze erupts. Properties in high fire-risk areas where wild lands intersect with urban or suburban communities should create a buffer zone between the house and grass, trees, shrubs and any other wild vegetation, Cal Fire says.
The defensible space is needed to slow or stop the spread of fire before it reaches your home. Cal Fire has a lot information on fire-resistant landscaping techniques, plant spacing and maintenance reminders.