Here’s How to Prepare for a Wildfire as Powerful Santa Ana Winds Expected Across SoCal

As the strongest Santa Ana winds of the season are forecast for parts of Southern California Tuesday night, officials are advising residents to prepare for possible wildfires that could threaten homes and force evacuations.

The winds, combined with low humidity, prompted the National Weather Service to issue a rare “extreme” red flag warning.

Residents in affected areas should prepare for the worst as soon as red flag warnings are issued, Cal Fire Capt. Scott McLean said in a briefing Monday.

“When critical fire weather is forecast, have that evacuation kit ready to grab and go,” McLean said. “A full tank of gas needs to be in your vehicle. We cannot stress this enough, especially with the power outages we’ve been seeing.”

Here’s What Goes Into an Emergency Kit:

  • A map of the area that you’ve marked with clear evacuation routes.
  • First aid kit.
  •  Flashlights and batteries.
  • Three-day supply of bottled water.
  •  Non-perishable food and a manual can opener.
  • Coolers or ice chests.
  •  Medication and medical supplies.
  • Battery-operated radio.
  • Rechargeable battery pack and phone charger.
  • Copies of personal documents and identification cards in case they are required for repopulation.
  • A bell or whistle for signaling.
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items.
  • Extra clothes.
  • N95 or surgical masks to protect from unhealthy particles in the air.
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.
  • Pet and baby supplies, if applicable.

Preparing for Possible Evacuations

  • Make sure all family members know where to meet.
  • Plan several routes you can take out of your community.
  • Practice evacuating with family members.
  • Make sure all members know how to stop, drop and roll.
  • Have a contingency plan for all members to contact each other.
  • Make sure all adults know how to safely turn off utilities and where their shut-offs are in your house. (Note: Never attempt to turn the gas back on yourself.)
  • Have a fire extinguisher and teach all members how to use them.
  • Plan how you will evacuate pets and large animals.
  • Turn off propane tanks.
  • Connect garden hoses to outside water valves or spigots for use by firefighters.
  • Have an extra emergency kit in your car in case you can’t get to your home because of a fire.
  • Remove flammable window shades, lightweight curtains and close metal shutters.
  • Move flammable furniture to the center of the room, away from windows and doors.
  • If time permits, toss flammable outdoor items, like patio furniture and toys, into a pool or bring them back into your house.

If You’re Evacuating:

  • Leave immediately.
  • Put on closed-toe shoes.
  • If time allows, grab your valuables and irreplaceable items.
  • Don’t leave sprinklers on or water running.
  • Shut all windows and doors, but leave them unlocked for firefighters.
  • Leave your lights on so firefighters can see your house in smoky conditions.
  • Shut off the air conditioning.
  • Don’t return until evacuation orders are lifted.
  • Monitor local fire agencies’ social media accounts for updates.

Coming Back Home After a Wildfire:

  • Be alert for downed power lines and other hazards.
  • Put on a dust mask to protect from smoke and particles in the air.
  • Check propane tanks, regulators and lines. Call your utility to turn the gas back on.
  • Check your home carefully for hidden embers or smoldering fires

Protecting Your Home Ahead of Time:

  • Make sure you have 100 feet of defensible space around your homes.
  • Clear dead weeds and vegetation right away.
  • Cover your chimney and stovepipe outlets with a nonflammable screen of ¼-inch wire mesh or smaller to prevent embers from escaping and igniting a fire, and make sure it’s at least 10 feet away from any tree branches.
  • Remove leaves and needles from gutters.
  • Trim branches 6 feet from the ground.
  • Maintain a list of emergency contact numbers posted near your phone and in your emergency supply kit.
  • Learn how to shut off natural gas and electricity.
  • Store all combustibles and flammable liquids away from ignition sources.
  • Ensure you trees are far away from power lines.
  • Make sure to use non-combustible fencing to protect your home during a wildfire.
  • Build your roof with fire-resistant materials. It’s the most vulnerable part of the structure.
  • All vent openings should be covered with small metal mesh.
  • Have multiple garden hoses that are long enough to reach any area of your home.

More information can be found here.

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