Wildfires: Staying safe when fire and smoke threaten

Last year, a record 10.1 million acres were burned by wildfires in the United States. In California alone, more than 2,500 structures were destroyed.
Image: FEMA

But wildfires don’t just threaten property. They also threaten lives. The smoke alone can cause trouble breathing, wheezing, chest pain or an asthma attack. That’s why it’s important to learn about wildfires in your area and have an emergency plan.

So how can you protect yourself from wildfires this year? First off, make an emergency plan. Identify at least two evacuation routes out of your neighborhood and agree on a meeting place for your family. You should also create an emergency kit, including food, water, a flashlight, radio, batteries and medications.

You can also prepare your home by making a 30-foot safety zone. This means clearing vegetation within 30 feet of your house, and removing debris from your roof. If wildfires are reported near your area, be ready to evacuate. Listen to local news reports, and close your windows and doors. After a wildfire, do not return to your home until officials say it’s safe.

Apps and alert systems can also keep you in the know. Download the American Red Cross’ free wildfire app and bookmark its online shelter finder map. Staying up on what’s happening locally is critically important, so be sure and download preparedness apps created just for your area and subscribe to electronic alerts.

For more tips, read and share our wildfire fact sheet.

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