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Thousands of wildfires strike California every year. When the humidity drops and the winds increase during fire season, fire danger is elevated even higher, and the public is asked to be extra vigilant.
Red Flag Warnings
The National Weather Service issues Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches to alert fire departments of the onset, or possible onset, of critical weather and dry conditions that could lead to rapid or dramatic increases in wildfire activity.
A Fire Weather Watch is issued when weather conditions over the next 12-72 hours have the potential to be favorable for fire danger. A Fire Weather Watch is one level below a warning, but fire danger is still likely.
A Red Flag Warning is issued for weather events that may result in extreme fire danger that will occur within 24 hours. A Red Flag Warning is the highest alert. Extreme caution is urged because a simple spark can cause a major wildfire.
Conditions for a fire watch or warning include:
- Low relative humidity.
- Strong winds.
- Dry fuels.
- The possibility of dry lightning strikes.
- Any combination of the above.
During heightened fire danger, CAL FIRE will place additional firefighters on duty, staff more fire engines, and keep more equipment available 24 hours a day to respond to any new fires.
CAL FIRE urges Californians to be extremely cautious, especially during periods of high fire danger. All residents must take steps to prevent wildfires. One less spark could mean one less wildfire. Please note that fire pits are restricted in military housing communities.
When a fire danger rating is "EXTREME" throughout the state, including on-base pr at installations where there are LMH communities, fires start very quickly by windblown embers in contact with dry vegetation. Once started, these fires can be very difficult to impossible to control and extinguish.
If you live in an area where the wildfire risk is high, take steps now to prepare for the fire season. Being prepared for fire season is especially important for the health of children, older adults, and people with heart or lung disease.
When is Wildfire Season?
Wildfires are particularly prevalent in the summer, fall and winter, especially during dry periods with increased dead fuels and high winds.
Before wildfire strikes, it is important that you prepare yourself and your home for the possibility of having to evacuate.
Create a Wildfire Action Plan that includes evacuation planning for your home, family, and pets.
Pay attention to air quality alerts. If needed, designate a room that can be closed off from outside air. Close all doors and windows when smoky conditions exist.
Know your community's evacuation plans and find several ways to leave the area. Drive the evacuation routes and find shelter locations.
Prepare your family.
Assemble an Emergency Supply Kit for each person in your household. Keep in mind each person's specific needs, including an updated asthma action plan and medication. Don't forget the needs of pets.
Fill out a Family Communication Plan that includes important evacuation and contact information.
Create a Wildfire Action Plan
Your Wildfire Action Plan must be prepared and familiar to all members of your household well in advance of a wildfire. Use the checklist below to help create your plan. Each family's plan will be different, depending on a variety of issues, needs, and situations.
- Have fire extinguishers on hand and train your family on how to use them (check expiration dates regularly).
- Assemble an Emergency Supply Kit for each person, as recommended by the American Red Cross.
- Maintain a list of emergency contact numbers posted near your phone and in your emergency supply kit.
- Keep an extra Emergency Supply Kit in your car in case you cannot get to your home because of fire or another emergency.
- Have a portable radio or scanner so you can stay updated on the fire.
- A designated emergency meeting location outside the fire or hazard area. This is critical to determine who has safely evacuated from the affected area.
- Know several different escape routes from your home and community. Practice these often so everyone in your family is familiar in case of emergency.
- Always keep a sturdy pair of shoes and a flashlight near your bed and handy in case of a sudden evacuation at night.
- Keep important documents in a fireproof, safe place. Create password-protected digital copies.
- Anticipate initial out-of-pocket expenses for lodging, food, gas, and more after a disaster. Contact the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society should you need assistance with these items. The Society provides interest-free loans and grants for basic living expenses, emergency travel expenses, and other family emergencies for military members and their families facing financial crises or need.
- Do not discard cigarettes out of your car when driving.
- Report small fires you see on the side of the road.
- Do not leave lit tiki torches in your yard unattended.
Prepare Your Family
Evacuation plans for families with young children should include helping toddlers understand how to quickly respond in case of fire and how adults can escape with babies. Prepare ahead of time by practicing your family's fire escape plan and what to do to be safe when there is a wildfire nearby.
It is important to talk to toddlers and small children at a level that they understand, and that does not frighten them. Here are a few resources that offer guides and tips for families with young children about fire safety and preparing for a disaster:
A Parent's Guide to Fire Safety for Babies and Toddlers The U.S. Fire Administration's information site for parents and caregivers to help prevent fire death of young children.
Let's Get Ready! Planning Together for Emergencies Sesame Workshop campaign with tips, activities, and other easy tools to help the whole family prepare for emergencies.
Ready.gov Kids FEMA's site for older kids to prepare and plan for a disaster. Includes safety steps, tips, and games to help children learn about and be ready for an emergency.
Smokey Kids U.S. Forest Service's interactive Smokey Bear site with games, information, and resources on how to prevent forest fires.
Assemble an Emergency Supply Kit
Put together your emergency supply kit long before a wildfire or other disaster occurs and keep it easily accessible so you can take it with you when you have to evacuate. Plan to be away from your home for an extended period of time. Each person should have a readily accessible emergency supply kit. Backpacks work great for storing these items (except food and water) and are quick to grab. Storing food and water in a tub or chest on wheels will make it easier to transport. Keep it light enough to be able to lift it into your car.
Emergency Supply Kit Checklist
- Three-day supply of non-perishable food and three gallons of water per person.
- Map marked with at least two evacuation routes
- Prescriptions or special medications
- Change of clothing
- Extra eyeglasses or contact lenses
- An extra set of car keys, credit cards, cash or traveler's checks
- First aid kit
- Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
- Sanitation supplies
- Copies of important documents (birth certificates, passports, etc.)
- Don't forget pet food and water!
Items to take if time allows:
- Easily carried valuables
- Family photos and other irreplaceable items
- Personal computer information on hard drives
- Chargers for cell phones, laptops, etc.
For more information on emergency supplies, visit www.ready.gov
Even if the fire danger is not imminent, high levels of smoke may force you to stay indoors for a long time or even to evacuate. Reduce your pet's exposure to smoke as you would reduce your own. Learn more about Pet Safety during Wildfires here.
During a Wildfire
Evacuate immediately if authorities tell you to do so.
Cover up to protect against heat and flying embers. Wear long pants, long sleeve shirt, heavy shoes/boots, cap, dry bandana for face cover, goggles, or glasses. 100% cotton is preferable.
Locate your pets and take them with you.
If trapped, then call 911 and give your location, but be aware that emergency response could be delayed or impossible. Turn on lights to help rescuers find you.
Listen to EAS, NOAA Weather Radio, or local alerting systems for current emergency information and instructions.
Use N95 masks to keep harmful particles out of the air you breathe.
If you are not ordered to evacuate but smoky conditions exist, stay inside in a safe location or go to a community building where smoke levels are lower.
Power outages may occur before and during the threat of a wildfire. It's important to be prepared and know what actions to take when leaving your home. Here are a few ways to be ready in case of a power outage during these critical times.
- Learn how to manually open your automatic garage doors or gates—this is extremely important!
- Be familiar with your home's utility boxes (electricity, water, and gas).
- Keep shoes near your bed in case you need to evacuate during the night.
- Build a supply kit —and more than just a First Aid Kit. Include prescription medications and check the expiration dates. Include water, a battery-operated radio, flashlights and batteries (or a rechargeable flashlight), coolers or ice chests, and external rechargeable battery packs for your cellphones and include an extra charging cable. Also, keep non-perishable food and a manual can opener in your kit.
- Always keep the gas tank at least half full in your vehicles.
- Make your safety preparedness plan now and make sure your family knows each step and role they will play during this time.
- Don't forget your pets! Have an action plan ready for them, too, and know how they will be cared for.
- Keep your cellphone charged.
- Keep a supply of bottled water.
During a Power Outage
If the power goes out, follow these steps:
- Monitor notifications from LMH via the Red Flag notification system.
- Report any emergency maintenance to Lincoln At Your Service (LAYS) 1-888-578-4141, 24/7.
- Open the refrigerator only when necessary. Food will spoil in the refrigerator if the power is off more than a few hours. Freezers will keep food for several days if the doors are not opened frequently after a power failure, but do not refreeze food once it begins to thaw.
- Stay at least 10 feet away from both overhead power lines and electrical facilities, and never approach or touch overhead power lines or any person or object in contact with the lines.
- If a wildfire is within your area, keep informed with a battery-powered radio or your cellphone.
After a Wildfire
Listen to authorities to find out when it is safe to return, and whether water is safe to drink.
Avoid hot ash, charred trees, smoldering debris, and live embers. The ground may contain heat pockets that can burn you or spark another fire. Consider the danger to pets.
Send text messages or use social media to reach out to family and friends. Phone systems are often busy following a disaster. Make calls only in emergencies.
Report any emergency maintenance to Lincoln At Your Service 1-888-578-4141, 24/7.
Wildfires dramatically change landscape and ground conditions, which can lead to an increased risk of flooding due to heavy rains, flash flooding, and mudflows. Flood risk remains significantly higher until vegetation is restored—up to 5 years after a wildfire.
Related: Your Family Needs an Emergency Binder - Here's Why