Wildfire resource guide: what to do in case of fire

Climate change has sparked longer wildfire seasons with hotter, faster-moving fires across much of the United States. That means more Americans face the possibility of a wildfire near their homes, leading to toxic air pollution and other dangerous conditions that can force evacuations, and in the worst case scenarios, destroy property and take lives.


If you live in an area that could be threatened by fire

Have a plan for evacuation:

  • Make sure everyone in your household knows the plan and where to meet outside the fire zone.

  • Make electronic copies of all of your critical documents, including identification and proof of insurance. Protect them with secure passwords and make sure you can access them remotely.

Prepare your home:

  •  If you repair or renovate your home, use fire-resistant materials, sometimes required by local building codes.
  • Clear leaves and other flammable materials within 30 feet of your home.
  • Create a “Clean Room” in your home.

Invest in hardening your home:

  • Easier and cheaper parts of your home to harden

    • Vents

    • Rain gutters

    • Chimney

  • More involved/more expensive (there may be financial assistance available for homeowners in fire-prone areas)

    • Roof

    • Walls

    • Windows

If there is an active wildfire in your area

Monitor Air Quality

  • You can use this website to monitor air quality, including from smoke.

Follow local agencies, be ready for evacuation orders

  • Sign up for emergency alerts. You can learn more about how at www.ready.gov.

  • You can track active fires on weather.gov/fire or fire.airnow.gov.

  • Find out where your city or county posts emergency information. Often, local emergency services share updates on social media such as Facebook or Twitter.

Be ready to evacuate

  • Plan several evacuation routes

  • If you have a car, keep a first aid kit, prescription medications, flashlights, food and water for people and pets, phone/device chargers, extra credit cards/cash and N95 masks in your trunk during fire season. Avoid flammable products. Keep your car fueled up enough to be able to reach your destination.

  • If you don’t have a vehicle, fill up a “go bag” with those same items. Keep it somewhere easy to reach.

  • Know where your irreplaceable items such as jewelry and family photos are. Have a plan for when you’ll move them to the car or “go bag.”

Additional Resources

Preparing for Wildfires (CDC)

How to Prepare for a Wildfire (WA DNR)

Wildfires (Ready.Gov)

Ready for Wildfire (CAL Fire)

Photo credit: Malachi Brooks via Unsplash



Ellen Montgomery

Director, Public Lands Campaign, Environment America Research & Policy Center

Ellen runs campaigns to protect America's beautiful places, from local beachfronts to remote mountain peaks. Prior to her current role, Ellen worked as the organizing director for Environment America’s Climate Defenders campaign. Ellen lives in Denver, where she likes to hike in Colorado's mountains.

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