How to Prepare for Evacuation during California’s Fire Season


Melissa Joseph

A graphic made by Melissa Joseph

Imagine waking up at 8 a.m. to your alarm clock going off. You drowsily silence it and get out of bed, but notice that something feels off. You double check the time thinking that it must be wrong, as your bedroom is still completely dark. Your bedroom window greets you with  an orange and smoky tint, suddenly realizing that something terrible has happened: your town is on fire.

Unfortunately for many, this fictional scenario is becoming an all too real occurrence. As California records  its largest fire season to date, many citizens are forced to evacuate and  decide what to take and leave behind. 

Evacuation orders can often come as a scary and unprecedented surprise, sometimes allowing  mere minutes to evacuate, as was the case during the 2018 Camp Fire. 

There are several things to consider when planning a safe evacuation. The first is the direction of which you’ll want to escape. According to the FireSafe Marin checklist, always evacuate downhill via a reliable vehicle, staying on wide roads and away from large areas of vegetation. Never leave on foot unless absolutely necessary. If you cannot escape, stay inside a building or car, you are more likely to survive this way.

If time permits, seal off the windows in your home before leaving, turn off all electrical appliances, cover all vents and entrances to the home, move all combustible items out of the home and make sure to turn off all gas appliances.

FireSafe Marin advises to always have your cell phone fully charged. They also advise that you have a flashlight and water on your person, and that you have a mask or face covering, ideally an N95. 

If you believe you will have to escape, the most important thing is to check for updates on the fire, which can be done through Nixle. Nixle is an alert service that anyone can sign up for that sends text messages to your phone with information from local public safety departments. It is highly recommended if you live in an area prone to fire to sign up.

Good luck. Evacuating can be a scary process. It is important to remain calm and make sure that you and loved ones get to safety no matter what. With California’s fire seasons growing worse every year, you never know when having an evacuation plan might pay off.
Lewis can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JackAttack722