Experts report many parts of the country face a higher-than-normal potential for wildfires in the coming months, mostly due to lower rainfall and warmer temperatures. The American Red Cross urges people who live in areas prone to these fires to make their preparations now as the effects of climate change continue to mount a devastating toll and the country faces another active wildfire season.
Most wildfires occur between June and August, but the 2022 fire season is well underway with the warmer weather and dry vegetation seen in many areas of the country. The National Interagency Fire Center reports so far this year the number of acres burned by wildfires is 112% above the average for the last 10 years. Since the start of the year there have been more than 28,000 wildfires which have burned more than 1.9 million acres.
HOW TO GET READY Follow these steps to help make sure your family is prepared to either evacuate or shelter in place.
- Create an evacuation plan. Plan what to do in case you are separated from your family during an emergency and if you have to evacuate. Coordinate your plan with your child’s school, your work and your community’s emergency plans. Plan multiple routes to local shelters, register family members with special medical needs as required and make plans for pets.
- If you already have an emergency plan, update and it and review with family members so everyone knows what to do if an emergency occurs.
- Build an emergency kit with a gallon of water per person, per day, non-perishable food, a flashlight, battery-powered radio, first aid kit, medications, supplies for an infant and pets if applicable, a multi-purpose tool, personal hygiene items, copies of important papers, cell phone chargers, extra cash, blankets, maps of the area and emergency contact information. Because of the pandemic, include a mask for everyone in your household.
- If you already have a disaster kit, now is the time make sure the food and water is still okay to consume and that copies of important documents are up to date.
- Be informed. Find out how local officials will contact you during a wildfire emergency and how you will get important information, such as evacuation orders.
- Download the free Red Cross Emergency app to have severe weather safety information right at your fingertips. The Emergency app provides real-time weather alerts and tips on how to stay safe during severe weather and countless other emergencies. Search “American Red Cross” in app stores or go to redcross.org/apps.
You can find more wildfire safety information here.
WILDFIRE PREVENTION Sadly, people cause 85% of wildfires by burning debris, using equipment improperly, discarding cigarettes carelessly, leaving campfires unattended or intentionally setting a fire. To help prevent wildfires, follow these critical tips:
- Don’t drive your vehicle onto dry grass or brush. Hot components under your vehicle can spark fires.
- Use equipment responsibly. Lawn mowers, chain saws, tractors and trimmers can all spark a wildfire.
- Use caution any time you use fire. Dispose of charcoal briquettes and fireplace ashes properly, never leave any outdoor fire unattended, and make sure that outdoor fires are fully extinguished before leaving the area.
- If residential debris burning is allowed — use caution. After obtaining any necessary permits, ensure that burning is not currently restricted in your area.
- Store combustible or flammable materials in approved safety containers away from the house.