On August 23, 2016, Governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency for 20 counties due to multiple wildfires and extreme fire conditions. With fires continuing to threaten homes, businesses, natural resources, and lives, it is important that everyone be aware of safety protocols and easy tips to keep you safe.
First and foremost, help firefighters and first responders by calling 9-1-1 if you see a fire. Don’t assume someone else has already done it.
While nobody can predict the exact moment a wildfire will start, there are a few simple things you can do around your house to minimize the risk.
- Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks. This prevents embers from igniting your home.
- Remove dead vegetation and other items from under your deck or porch.
- Take a look at your trees and make sure there is a 10 foot minimum barrier between them and your house.
Creating an emergency plan is also a vital part of wildfire prevention. Follow these tips to help create an easy and efficient plan:
- Assemble an emergency supply kit and place it in a safe spot (see list of things you’ll want to take with you below).
- Develop an emergency evacuation plan (which includes a plan for your pets – see below) and practice it with everyone in your home.
- Plan and practice two ways out of your neighborhood in case your primary route is blocked.
- Select a place for family members to meet outside your neighborhood in case you cannot get home or need to evacuate.
- Identify someone who is out of the area to contact and tell them where you’re going and for how long.
- Make sure driveway entrances and your house number/address is clearly marked.
Supplies to take with you (make sure you have enough for at least three whole days!):
- A list of important documents, medications, personal identification, and emergency contact information
- Non-perishable food
- Battery-powered radio
- Extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Multi-purpose tool
- Hygiene items
- Cellphone and portable chargers
- Emergency blanket
- Map of area
- Irreplaceable family items
Pet safety should also be considered in your emergency and evacuation plan. Pets often sense disasters before they happen and can become confused, agitated, and fearful. During fire season, be on the alert for this type of behavior and secure your pet as soon as possible to prevent them from running off in panic. Just as with your family’s emergency supply kit, pet owners should also have a pet survival kit. The State Fire Marshal’s Office recommends the following tips for assembling your pet’s survival kit:
- Food, water and medicine(s) for five days.
- Medical and veterinary records in a waterproof container. Most boarding kennels, veterinarians and animal shelters will need records to verify all vaccinations are current.
- First aid kit.
- ID your pet. Make sure your pet’s tags are up to date and securely fastened; if lost, this is their ticket home! Also consider microchipping your pets.
- Crate or other pet carrier. Carriers should be large enough to house your pet comfortably for several hours.
- A current photo of you and your pet together. This will aid in locating your pet if lost and also in establishing ownership.
- Familiar items. These will help to reduce stress.
- Special feeding, exercise or medication instructions.
- Sanitary supplies.
Pet-friendly facilities or lodgings should be identified in your plan, as many emergency shelters cannot accept pets for public health reasons. Some options are boarding kennels, veterinary hospitals, emergency animal shelters and some hotels or motels. The Humane Society advises that pets turned loose or left behind to fend for themselves are likely to become victims of starvation, predators, contaminated food or water, accidents or exposure to the elements.
If you are forced to evacuate your home or a specific area, please do so as soon as it is recommended by fire officials— and don’t forget to follow these steps:
- Stay aware of the latest news and updates from your local media, fire department, and Washington State Patrol district PIO.
- Locate all family members (including your pets).
- Inform someone where you are going and when you have arrived.
- Make sure all your windows and doors are unlocked.
- Remove flammable window shades, curtains, and furniture to the center of the room.
- Leave your lights on so firefighters can see your house under smoky conditions.
- Shut off air conditioning and your propane and gas tanks.
- Place your emergency supply kit in the car.
- Place a ladder against the front of the house.
- Place firefighting tools, such as 100 feet of pre-connected garden hose, a shovel, a rake, a bucket, and containers filled with water, in an accessible place.