Extreme heat, strong winds and dry conditions are leading to critical wildfire conditions in the West, as well as power outages in some areas. The American Red Cross has steps people can take to remain safe.
While conditions around some of the fires have improved, a new wildfire, the Creek Fire in Madera, Mariposa and Fresno counties, prompted new evacuation orders over the weekend. Combined with high temperatures and the Santa Ana winds, the western part of the country is facing extreme or critical fire conditions.
People are also living with power outages during unusually high temperatures. In California, Washington and Oregon, more than 289,000 homes and businesses have no power.
Follow these steps to be ready and to help you stay safe:
WILDFIRE SAFETY STEPS
A wildfire can spread very quickly, leaving you little time to get to safety. Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice and obey all evacuation orders from officials.
- Back your car into the garage or park it outside, facing the direction of your evacuation route.
- Confine pets to one room, so you can find them if you need to evacuate quickly.
- Limit exposure to smoke and dust. Keep indoor air clean by closing windows and doors to prevent outside smoke from getting in.
- Don’t use anything that burns, such as candles, fireplaces and gas stoves.
If you’re trapped outdoors, crouch in a pond, river or pool.
- Don’t put wet clothing or bandanas over your mouth or nose, as moist air can cause more damage to your airway than dry air at the same temperature.
- If there is no body of water, look for shelter in a cleared area or among a bed of rocks. Lie flat, face down, and cover your body with soil. Breathe the air close to the ground to avoid scorching your lungs or inhaling smoke.
Don’t return home until officials say it’s safe to do so.
- Inspect the roof immediately and extinguish any sparks or embers. Wildfires may have left embers that could reignite.
- Check your home for embers that could cause fires. Look for signs of a fire including smoke or sparks.
- Avoid damaged or downed power lines, poles and wires.
- Keep your animals under your direct control. Hidden embers and hot spots could burn them.
- Wet down debris to minimize breathing in dust particles.
- Wear leather gloves and shoes with heavy soles.
- Throw out any food that has been exposed to heat, smoke or soot.
WHAT TO DO IF THE POWER IS OUT
Power outages can be frustrating and troublesome. For prolonged power outages, there are ways that you can minimize loss and keep everyone as comfortable as possible.
- Use flashlights in the dark — not candles.
- Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic lights will be out and roads will be congested.
- Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment.
- Turn off or disconnect any appliances — such as stoves — equipment and electronics that you were using when the power went out. When power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment.
- Leave one light on, so you’ll know when power is restored.
If a power outage is two hours or less, don’t be concerned about losing perishable foods. During a prolonged outage, keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to protect your food.
- First, use perishable food from the refrigerator. Perishables are safe to eat when they have a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Then, use food from the freezer.
- If the power outage will continue beyond a day, prepare a cooler with ice for your freezer items. Keep food in a dry, cool spot and cover it at all times.
If you are using a generator, keep it dry and don’t use it in wet conditions.
- Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Keep these devices outside away from doors, windows and vents, which could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
- Operate the generator on a dry surface under an open canopy-like structure, such as under a tarp held up by poles.
- Don’t touch a generator with wet hands.
- Turn the generator off and let it cool down before refueling. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.
- Plug appliances directly into the generator. Never try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet.
Download the free Red Cross Emergency App to have power outage safety information right at your fingertips. The Emergency App provides real-time weather alerts and tips on how to stay safe during power outages and countless other emergencies. Search “American Red Cross” in app stores, or go to redcross.org/apps.