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California Wildfire Evacuation Checklist

Being in a wildfire can be terrifying. Unfortunately, it is a part of life for many Californians, especially as the number of wildfires steadily increases. Staying prepared with this wildfire checklist can help you and your family safely evacuate.

Follow Evacuation Instructions

Always follow evacuation instructions that have been given for your area. If there is an evacuation order to leave now, do so immediately. If it is an evacuation warning, evacuate as soon as possible. A short delay to gather your belongings may be possible in this case. A shelter-in-place warning means to stay put and wait for further orders. Sign up for notifications from CAL FIRE’s Ready for Wildfire app to stay informed in real time. 

Prepare Your Getaway Vehicle

Before an evacuation warning or order has been given, prepare your vehicle for a quick getaway. Fill your gas tank to at least the halfway level and roll up the car windows. Park your vehicle in your driveway or garage facing outward, toward the road. Store all of your essential items in your car so that you’re ready to go.

Gather Your Pets

If you have any pets, round them up in pet carriers and keep them by the door. Don’t forget to pack food and water for your pets. If possible, make arrangements to evacuate your livestock ahead of a wildfire.

Pack Your Must-Haves

Create a go-bag with items that you and your family members will need. Keep it as simple as possible while including the necessities, such as a few changes of clothes, your medications or medical devices, and personal hygiene products. Keep your phone charged and on you at all times in case of an emergency. 

Bring an Emergency Kit

Pack a kit with emergency supplies that you may need. It should include:

  • N95 respirator
  • Goggles
  • Flashlight and headlamp
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Spare chargers and batteries
  • Map
  • First-aid kit
  • Burn injury kit
  • Bottled water
  • Nonperishable food
  • Sanitation items

Keep your emergency kit in your vehicle.

Make Copies of Important Documents

As part of your wildfire preparations, make copies of all of your most important documents and store them in your go-bag or in a secure place, such as a fireproof safe. Send digital versions to the Cloud when possible. Important documents may include:

  • Photographs
  • Licenses 
  • Passports
  • Social Security cards
  • Birth certificates
  • Marital records
  • Bank and financial records
  • Medical documents
  • Tax documents
  • Insurance policy documents

If an evacuation warning or order has already been put in place in your county, it may be too late to make copies or find the originals. In this case, leave them behind and evacuate.

Know Where You’re Going

Know where you are evacuating ahead of time to avoid driving around in an active wildfire. The evacuation order given in your area should provide the address to the holding location in your community. This may be a Red Cross shelter, evacuation shelter, community center or a relative’s house who lives in a low-risk area. Have a few different routes to your predetermined location mapped out in case the fire closes certain roads.

Fireproof Your Home (if There’s Time)

If time allows, take some steps to help reduce the risk of property damage from a wildfire. The following can help you protect your home before you evacuate:

  • Close all of your windows and doors but leave them unlocked for firefighters.
  • Turn off any fans and AC units.
  • Leave indoor and outdoor lights on so that firefighters can see your home through clouds of smoke.
  • If you have metal shutters, close them.
  • Push your furniture away from the windows.
  • Remove all curtains and window treatments and stack them in the center of your room.
  • Turn off gas at the meter or tanks.
  • Outdoors, place any combustible items in your garage or swimming pool.
  • Fill buckets with water and place them around the outside of your home.
  • Make sure all gates and fences are unlocked.

In addition, making a video inventory of your possessions and sending it to the Cloud can help you with an insurance claim later. Remember, you should only attempt to protect your home if there is plenty of time to do so.

After you evacuate, if you need assistance with the insurance claims process or a lawsuit, contact a wildfire lawsuit attorney in California from Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger. We serve wildfire victims from the Dixie Fire and beyond.