Red Cross urges preparedness this wildfire season

Structures burn near Mountain Center during the second day of the Cranston Fire on Mount San Jacinto, July 26, 2018. The American Red Cross is urging residents to set a plan and prepare for wildfire this wildfire season. Anza Valley Outlook/Shane Gibson photo

With the fire season underway, the American Red Cross is urging those in California to be prepared.

“A wildfire can come without warning and spread quickly, leaving you little time to get to safety. Now is the time to prepare, especially with COVID-19 affecting our community,” Joselito Garcia-Ruiz, regional disaster program officer for the Red Cross Los Angeles Region, said. “Talk with your family about wildfires, how to prevent them and what to do if one occurs. Put together a family disaster kit. Make a plan and practice it.”

Families should be prepared for any major disaster with enough food, water and emergency supplies to last up to two weeks until help can arrive, the American Red Cross said.

PrepareSoCal, an American Red Cross multi-region campaign designed to address the needs of individuals and families to prepare for disasters, small and large, by providing tips, tools and training, encourages residents to implement three basic steps when preparing for an emergency.

Get a kit. 

Build an easy-to-carry emergency preparedness kit that you can use at home or take with you if you must evacuate. Include items such as water, nonperishable food, a flashlight and extra batteries, a battery-powered radio, first-aid kit and medications. Be sure to also include a cloth face covering for everyone in your household who can wear one safely.

Make a plan. 

Talk with members of your household about what to do during emergencies. Plan what to do in case everyone is separated and choose two places to meet – one right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency and another outside your neighborhood, in case you cannot return home or are asked to evacuate. Be sure to share that plan with others.

Be informed. 

Know what kinds of emergency situations may occur where you live, where you work and where you go to school. Because of COVID-19, stay current on advice and restrictions from your state and local public health authorities as it may affect your actions and available resources and facilities.

Remember that a wildfire can spread quickly, leaving those in its path little time to get to safety. The American Red Cross said that residents near a fire should always be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice and obey all evacuation orders from officials.

Other tips include backing the car into the garage or parking it outside facing the direction of the evacuation route, confining pets to a single room so they can be found quickly should the need to evacuate arise and limit exposure to smoke and dust by keeping windows and doors closed.

When trapped outdoors during a fire crouch in a pond, river or pool. If there is no body of water, those trapped in a fire should look for shelter in a clear area or in a bed of rocks. Those trapped should lay flat, face down and cover their bodies with soil. Breathe the air close to the ground to avoid scorching lungs or inhaling smoke. The Red Cross also said not to put wet clothing or bandanas over your mouth or nose as moist air can cause more damage to the airway than dry air at the same temperature.

Never return home until officials say it is safe to do so.

Upon returning home, inspect the roof immediately and extinguish any sparks or embers. Wildfires may have left embers that could reignite and check the home for embers that could cause fires. Look for signs of a fire including smoke or sparks.

Other safety tips include avoiding downed powerlines, poles and wires, keeping animals on the leash so the owners have direct control over them to avoid any hot spots or hidden embers that could burn them. Also, wet down any debris to minimize breathing in dust particles. Be sure to wear leather gloves and shoes with heavy soles when entering an area that has been burned and throw out any food that has been exposed to heat, smoke or soot.

For more information on emergency preparedness and wildfire safety, visit

Kim Harris can be reached by email at