YUBA COUNTY WATERSHED PROTECTION & FIRE SAFE COUNCIL

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Evacuation

Surviving a Wildfire in Yuba County

Glenn Nader, University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor

Art Craigmill, University of California Cooperative Extension Specialist

Greg Royat, Retired CDF Captain, Fire Academy Instructor Yuba Community College

The following guidelines are provided as informational only.  It is important that you understand the risks involved with both options: evacuation and sheltering in place before making that personal choice.

The safest choice is to evacuate early.  Buildings can be replaced, but lives cannot.  If you live in an area of limited road access (one way in and out) and could be trapped by a fire, then you should plan ahead for the possibility of sheltering in place.

Typically, when a wildfire threatens homes, residents may be advised or ordered by Sheriff or fire personnel to evacuate when the fire is approaching. You must be prepared well in advance for a wildfire event. Making the decision to evacuate or stay during a wildfire event is a personal decision. This document is intended to help you think through and prepare for a wildfire event.

When a large wildland fire occurs near your home, your safest option is to evacuate early, perhaps even before an evacuation order is given. A safe and rapid evacuation requires that you have made plans and preparations that include such things as: items to take with you, last minute preparations to protect your home, where to take pets, where to meet family members or how to make contact with them if separated, and route information for safely leaving the area.

During past wildfires, dark smoke and delayed evacuations have caused panicked evacuees to drive off roads or become disorientated, trapping them in the fire’s path. In areas with limited road access (one way in and out) which could be blocked by a wildfire, residents should also make plans for sheltering in place. 

Planning and preparing your home for sheltering in place will give you an option in the event that conditions preclude a safe evacuation.  However, safe sheltering in place requires considerable preparation before a fire starts.  This includes use of fire resistant building materials in construction and remodeling, providing defensible space around your home and taking other actions to prevent your home from catching fire.  Preparing for sheltering in place also improves the likelihood that your home will survive even if you do evacuate. You must also discipline yourself to follow your plans and avoid panic, if you chose to shelter in place.  You should also consider what happens if things do not go according to your plan.

WILDFIRE EVACUATION 

If you invest time in preparing for evacuation now, you will be ready to leave in an effective, rational and safe manner.

BEFORE A FIRE:  Plan for evacuation

WHEN A FIRE THREATENS: Prepare to Evacuate

WHEN YOU  Decide to Evacuate

If Trapped by Fire in a Vehicle During Evacuation

If you see the flames of a wildfire in the distance, pull over to the side of the road and assess the situation.  Proceed with the evacuation unless you see that the route is blocked by fire.  If you are trapped by fire while evacuating in your car, do not try to outrun the fire; you are much safer in the car.

If you cannot proceed with the evacuation and are trapped by the fire:

Park The Car

WHEN FIRE COMES CLOSE TO YOUR VEHICLE

AFTER EVACUATION

SHELTERING IN PLACE

BEFORE A FIRE:  PREPARATION TO SHELTER IN PLACE

The ability to safely shelter in place requires much preparation months before a fire starts. 

To be able to shelter in place safely your home must have fire-resistive design qualities, including a well-maintained, vegetation management plan.

Ask yourself:

Your home could be used to shelter-in-place if it has the following features:

For more information on construction design and material go to:  http://groups.ucanr.org/HWMG/

Annual Fuel Maintenance includes: A well-maintained, fire-resistive landscape with a minimum 100 to 200 foot defensible space (depending on the slope of the property) surrounding all structures, and the removal of flammable debris at least 3 times a year from roof valleys, rain gutters, and under and on the deck.

Things to Consider

Once you have made the decision to shelter in place you may not be able to get any help from the outside agencies (fire, rescue, or law enforcement).

Animals
Have a plan for your animals for either early evacuation to a friend or relatives or a safe area that they can also shelter during the fire.  Large animals should be placed in areas (size of a football field) where the fuel has been removed or in an irrigated pasture.  Pets should be placed in carrier cages for control during the fire.

Emergency Supply Kit Items

The emergency kit is the most important item for personal safety during a wildfire for each member of the family.  (Appendix 3)  Clothing you wear is also important for your protection (See Clothing section – Appendix 2).     

As a wildfire nears home, you are advised to do the following:

HOME PREPARATION:  Outside:

HOME PREPARATION: Inside:

When to Shelter in the House

When you no longer feel safe outside, it is time to go inside the house or car, and take cover until the fire front has passed.  Shelter in a room at the opposite end of your home from where the fire is approaching, that has 2 possible exit routes.  Remain calm and keep everyone together.  The roar of the fire can be loud and the house will get hot and smoky as the fire front passes, so emotionally you must be prepared to deal with the horrific sound and natural urge to flee the house.  At that point, you have made the decision and to survive, you must stay inside the house until the fire front passes. Although it is very hot in the house, it can be 4 to 5 times hotter outside.

Pictures and approximate timeline of the different stages of a Fire

With less fuel around your house, the fire intensity and duration will decrease.

After the Fire Passes

 

Appendices

Appendix 1 - Fire Fighting for Homeowners (Safety & Techniques)

Appendix 2 - Clothing for Evacuation and Sheltering in Place

Appendix 3 - Emergency Kit

 

This publication is adapted from the following:

Sheltering in Place During Wildfires. Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District. http://www.rsf-fire.org/assets/documents/education/preparedness/SIP_for_web.pdf

Wildfire: Making the Decision Guidelines for Safe Evacuation & for Sheltering in Place.  Anchorage Fire Department, Wildfire Mitigation Office.

http://www.muni.org/iceimages/fire1/Wildfire%20Evacuation%20Guidelines.pdf#search='Wildfire%2C%20Shelter%20in%20place'

Australian Fire Brigades Ring site. Port Elliot Country Fire Service. http://users.chariot.net.au/~allan/wildfire.html

Wildfire Information. Colorado Governor’s Office of Energy Management and Conservation. http://www.state.co.us/eomc/links/fire/duringevent.htm. 

Planning for Fire. Boulder Colorado. http://www.fremontcounty.org/wildfire_information.html

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Fire Protection Training, Procedures Handbook 4300.o:p>

Fire Weather (1970) PMS 425-1, AG HANDBOOK 360

The Firesafe Council meets on the second Wednesday of every month at the Alcouffe Community Center in Dobbins-Oregon House from 9:30AM - 12 PM.