Wildfires are quick-spreading, uncontrollable events. They often occur in the western part of the United States due to frequent drought conditions. In many other cases, wildfires are frequently started accidentally or intentionally by humans.
No matter where you live, you should have a wildfire preparedness plan to protect yourself and your property in the event of a wildfire. You should also have an evacuation plan ready to execute in case the fires start creeping too close to home.
As part of your wildfire preparedness plan, you should have a pre-packed wildfire emergency kit to sustain you through the crisis and to assist you in the event of an evacuation. What you put into your wildlife preparedness kit is important, as including the essentials will increase your chances of survival.
20 Things to Have in Your Wildfire Preparedness Kit
To ensure you have everything you need in your wildfire preparedness kit, you need to plan for two possible situations:
- Staying in your home when a fire is nearby
- Evacuating your home when a fire is too close to your property
Not every emergency requires an evacuation, but it’s wise to pack your emergency supplies in sturdy backpacks for convenient travel. Each member of the household should have their own bag to ensure sufficient supplies are available for everyone.
You can also pack items in plastic storage bins, which can be easily loaded into your vehicle for an evacuation.
Staying at Home
If conditions are safe enough to remain on your property, your wildfire preparedness kit should contain:
Have at least one gallon of clean drinking water for each person in your household for at least 5-7 days. Don’t rely on your tap water to be safe during such an emergency, as water sources can be contaminated during a wildfire emergency. Use bottled water for drinking and personal hygiene until you can confirm local water supplies are safe. If the weather is especially hot, more water will be needed for proper hydration.
Powdered drink mixes and bottled juices can be added to your supply for drink variations. Make sure all drink bottles are plastic and not glass to prevent breakage.
Have non-perishable food items, including canned foods, MREs, and snacks available for each household member for up to a week. Make sure to consider special dietary needs of household members, including the elderly and infants. Also ensure there is enough food for any household pets and outdoor livestock, who will also add to your water supply needs.
You’ll need basic utensils for eating, including paper plates, napkins, a can opener, and a selection of sealable containers. You may also want to have a cooler on hand to protect refrigerated items if the power goes out in your home.
Get any prescriptions filled as soon as you are alerted to the potential for a wildfire emergency. You should also keep a supply of over-the-counter medications, first aid supplies, and vitamins in your emergency supplies.
A weather radio that provides updates on weather and wildfire conditions should be battery-operated and kept with your emergency supplies for easy access. Keep extra batteries updated according to expiration dates.
Keep several flashlights in your kit so every household member has a light source. Keep batteries updated at regular intervals. Having a selection of different flashlight styles can be helpful, such as battery-operated, lantern-style flashlights which easily replace lamps when the power goes out.
During a widespread emergency, power problems and business closures can make it hard to get what you need. It is important to have cash as part of your emergency preparedness kit so you can complete transactions and get what you need when credit cards aren’t accepted.
Have playing cards, board games, and other non-electronic activities to keep busy when the power goes out. During wildfire emergencies, power could be out for several days and staying active can help pass the time.
While you should have several extinguishers around your home for safety, having one or two extras for help during a wildfire is recommended. Never try to fight a wildfire by yourself but if trees near your property catch fire, you may be able to maintain a perimeter around your home to prevent the fire from getting closer to your house or other structures.
If you are susceptible to allergies or respiratory issues, you may want to include face masks or respirators in your supply kit. If wildfire smoke starts affecting your property, you can use the mask to protect your breathing.
Evacuating Your Property
When a fire gets too close to home or it’s expected to travel close to your property, evacuation may be necessary. There may also be a mandatory evacuation order issued by local authorities. If you are going to leave, you’ll need to bring your entire emergency kit and pack a few extra essentials.
For ease of travel, scan all of your important documents and download them to a thumb drive. You can also print paper copies to travel with and protect the original documents in a waterproof container. Important documents include:
- Insurance policies
- Social security cards
- Mortgage paperwork
- Medical records
- Birth certificates
- Marriage licenses
- Wills and estate paperwork
- Financial information
Pet Travel Items
If you are evacuating your property, take your pets with you. Never allow pets to fend for themselves during an emergency. Pack a selection of important pet items for travel, including crates, leashes, harnesses, pet bowls, and medications.
Pack several changes of clothing based on the weather conditions, including outerwear for cold-weather conditions.
Extra blankets will be important, especially if you have to stay in an emergency shelter. Pillows and other comfort items will be appreciated during an evacuation.
Keep updated supplies of toiletries including shampoos, moisturizers, toothbrushes, toothpaste, contact lens supplies, toilet paper, feminine products, deodorant, and other hygiene supplies. Wet wipes are good for cleaning hands and faces or cleaning up messes.
Specialized Medical Equipment
Elderly and infirm people may need additional medical equipment during an evacuation, including oxygen tanks, wheelchairs, and walkers.
Infants and young toddlers can survive without bouncy chairs and other entertaining gear, but you should bring a portable crib or playpen, stroller, and car seat if you need to stay at a hotel or emergency shelter for several days.
Pack an extra set of keys for the structures and vehicles left behind on your property and leave a set at home. This ensures you can regain access to your home after the chaos of an evacuation.
To keep up effective communication with loved ones, pack an extra cell phone charger in your travel bag. Keep both a wall charger and a car charger in the kit to charge phones.
Pack an extra camera in your emergency supply kit. In the event of an evacuation, you may need to photograph damage to your property upon your return. Phone cameras are useful but if you aren’t able to charge your cell phone during an evacuation due to power outages, you can still rely on the camera for your photographic evidence.
A Few Reminders
While having important items on hand when you need them is critical for survival, it’s important to remember your selection of belongings will differ based on current weather conditions, how many people are traveling away from the property, and where you will be staying.
You may not need to bring along as much gear if you plan to stay at the home of a relative or friend. This can help you travel a little lighter. If you need to evacuate to a shelter, you may need to bring additional supplies to sustain you for several days.
Some of the products in your wildfire preparedness kit will come with expiration dates. Foods, medications, and batteries should be replaced as needed. Keep a list of those goods which expire and the dates they need to be replaced so you can make the updates without sorting through your supplies.
When in Doubt, Get Out
Wildfires can spread rapidly and without warning. High winds can carry burning embers away from the original fire, igniting nearby wooded areas and structures. If a wildfire is in your area, it is always best to err on the side of caution and make immediate plans to evacuate your property. In especially dry conditions, fires can travel quickly using grass as its fuel, ultimately trapping you and your family inside your home.
Even if the fire doesn’t burn down your home, the smoke and other hazards can pose a serious threat to your family. First responders may be impeded by closed roads and getting to you for a serious emergency can become impossible.
Your local area may be crippled by the fires in the days and weeks following the fire. Extended power outages and business closures can make it difficult to resume your normal activities. By being prepared ahead of time and considering the worst-case scenario, you’ll be more prepared to survive such a catastrophe.
In the event you evacuate your property and it’s destroyed by wildfires, never return to the area until emergency personnel give the okay. Wildfires can reignite even days after the original fire has been contained. Contact your insurance company and find out the protocols for documenting the damage and reporting your loss. This will be the first step to rebuilding your life after a wildfire.