Prepare to evacuate from a wildfire

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Wildfire can destroy a home within minutes. Anza Valley Outlook/Diane Sieker photo

Wildfire season is upon the Anza Valley, and residents should formulate an evacuation plan in case an evacuation is called.

As Cal Fire, Riverside County Fire Department and the U.S. Forestry Department deploy resources to find wildland fires, they release information that is accurate, timely and trustworthy. If an evacuation is imminent, residents will be alerted, and law enforcement agencies will go door to door to ensure everyone clears out safely.

Come up with a plan before things get hot. Everyone in the home must be aware of the actions to be taken and prepared in an instant to implement the plan.

The strategy should include a meeting place outside the danger area and all routes to this place from the home need to be familiar to all persons involved.

Make considerations for livestock and pets. If a homeowner does not have a trailer to move any large animals, coordinate with friends and neighbors before disaster strikes to use their equipment or obtain their assistance. It is not advised by any agencies to turn animals out to fend for themselves during a wildfire.

For small pets, ensure travel accommodations for each animal. Crates for dogs and cats are excellent, but make sure there are enough to go around. Be prepared to load up food, water and medications for furry friends at a moment’s notice.

Collect all important papers such as passports, birth certificates, insurance policies and car titles and have a plan to secure them while leaving. Medications and special items also need to be considered.

Phones, laptops, tablets and other devices need to come with their power sources, cases, accessories and plug ins.

Make sure that everyone in the household understands how to shut off gas or propane service. Have fire extinguishers at the ready and know how to use them.

Back the family car into the driveway with the vehicle loaded and all doors and windows closed. Carry car keys at all times. Don’t forget keys, wallets, glasses, changes of clothes, family photos, medical devices, shoes, jackets, blankets and special items like diapers and wipes.

Know simple first aid care and have supplies on hand in case of injuries.

Prepare the home for evacuation by shutting all windows and doors and leaving them unlocked. Remove flammable window shades, curtains and close metal shutters. Move flammable furniture to the center of the room, away from windows and doors. Shut off the gas and air conditioning. Leave the home’s lights on so firefighters can see the house in smoky or nighttime conditions.

Gather up flammable items such as patio furniture, toys, door mats and trash cans from the exterior of the house and bring them inside. Move propane barbecue appliances away from structures. Connect garden hoses to outside water valves or spigots for use by firefighters. Fill water buckets and place them around the house. Don’t leave sprinklers on or water running, as that can affect critical water pressure.

Have a ladder available and place it at the corner of the house for firefighters to quickly access the roof.

Patrol the property and monitor the fire situation. Residents don’t have to wait for an evacuation order if they feel threatened.

Check on neighbors and make sure they are preparing to leave.

No one wants to have to leave their home in the event of a disaster, but it is important to follow official orders. By doing so, residents help officials to help them. Firefighters do not want to have to worry about saving people if the fire comes upon the home. They need to fight the fire and concentrate all resources to that task.

For more information on evacuation plans, visit http://www.readyforwildfire.org/Go-Evacuation-Guide/.

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at dsieker@reedermedia.com.