Wildfires

A wildfire is a fire that burns out of control in a natural area, like a forest, grassland, or prairie. Wildfires can occur anywhere in the country. They can start in remote wilderness areas, in national parks, or even in your own backyard. As more homes and businesses are being built in wilderness areas, they may be increasingly at risk. This is called the wildland urban interface.

Wildfires often begin unnoticed. They can start from natural causes like lightning and volcanic eruptions. However, most wildfires are caused by humans. They spread quickly, igniting bushes, trees, homes, and other buildings. Wildfires can damage natural resources and threaten human lives and safety.

Words to know

Wildfires can happen anywhere, anytime. The chance of wildfires happening is higher when there is little or no rainfall. This makes bushes, grass and trees dry and easier to burn. High winds can spread wildfires. Your community may have a designated wildfire season when the risk is particularly high.

Before

  • Build an emergency kit.
  • Make a family communications plan.
  • Know your evacuation route.
  • Make sure your family has smoke alarms on every level of your home, especially in bedrooms. Ask your parents to check them every month and to change the batteries every year.
  • If you don’t have a smoke alarm, check with your local fire department about getting a free one.
  • Help your parents to rake the lawn and get rid of leaves and twigs. These can catch fire if a wildfire is near your home. Never play with matches. You could accidentally start a fire.

During 

  • Listen to emergency officials
  • Follow local emergency officials’ orders. If they say to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • If you see a wildfire, call 911. You may be the first person to have spotted it!
  • If trapped, call 9-1-1.

After

  • Call 9-1-1 and seek help immediately if you or someone you are with has been burned. Cool and cover burns to reduce the chance of further injury or infection.
  • If you are at home, keep a “fire watch.” That means, look for smoke or sparks throughout the house. If you see anything, tell a grown-up immediately!
  • If you have evacuated, do not go home until safety officials say it’s okay. Stay away from downed or dangling power lines. They could electrocute you.
  • Avoid walking on hot/burning surfaces. After a fire, the ground may contain heat pockets or hidden embers. Stay away. They could burn you or spark another fire.
  • If you have animals, watch them closely and keep them under your control. Note that hidden embers and hot spots could burn their paws or hooves.
  • Do not use water from the faucet unless emergency officials say it’s okay.
  • Burned areas should be monitored for at least 12 hours to make sure the fire is out and danger has past.
  • Do not attempt to remove heavy debris by yourself. Wear protective clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, work gloves and sturdy, thick-soled shoes during clean up. These will protect you from further injury from broken glass, exposed nails or other objects.
  • Throw away food exposed to heat, smoke, or soot. When in doubt throw it out.
  • Use text or social media to communicate with your family and friends.

Did you know?

The three elements needed to create and keep a fire burning are hydrogen, fuel, and oxygen, also known as the fire triangle.

Incident Meteorologists (IMETs) are a group of around 70 specially-trained weather experts with the National Weather Service. They work closely with wildfire responders at wildfire sites to monitor, analyze, and report fire and weather conditions. Their forecasts help firefighters plan operations when dealing with the unpredictable nature of fire. This helps keep emergency responders safe.

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