Wildfire

Hazard rank in the 2021 Clinton County Hazard Mitigation Plan (1 highest priority to 16 lowest priority): 14.​

Wildfires are unplanned fires that burn in natural areas like forests, grasslands or prairies. These dangerous fires spread quickly and can devastate not only wildfire and natural areas, but also communities.

Prepare BEFORE Wildfires

 

Recognize Warnings and Alerts:

Make an Emergency Plan:
  • Make sure everyone in your household knows and understands what to do if you need to quickly evacuate.  

Review Important Documents:
  • Make sure your insurance policies and personal documents like ID are up to date.

  • Make copies and keep them in a secure password protected digital space.

Strengthen your Home:
  • Use fire-resistant materials to build, renovate or make repairs.

  • Find an outdoor water source with a hose that can reach any area of your property.

  • Create a fire-resistant zone that is free of leaves, debris or flammable materials for at least 30 feet from your home.

  • Designate a room that can be closed off from outside air. Close all doors and windows. Set up a portable air cleaner to keep indoor pollution levels low when smoky conditions exist.

Know your Evacuation Zone:
  • You may have to evacuate quickly due to a wildfire. Learn your evacuation routes, practice with household, pets, and identify where you will go.

  • Follow the instructions from local authorities. They will provide the latest recommendations based on the threat to your community and appropriate safety measures.

Gather Supplies:
  • Have enough supplies for your household, include medication, disinfectant supplies, masks, pet supplies in your go bag or car trunk. Being prepared allows you to address smaller medical issues at home, alleviating the burden on urgent care centers and hospitals.

    • Being prepared allows you to avoid unnecessary excursions and to address minor medical issues at home, alleviating the burden on urgent care centers and hospitals.

    • Remember that not everyone can afford to respond by stocking up on necessities. For those who can afford it, making essential purchases and slowly building up supplies in advance will allow for longer time periods between shopping trips. This helps to protect those who are unable to procure essentials in advance of the pandemic and must shop more frequently. In addition, consider avoiding WIC-labeled products so that those who rely on these products can access them.

  • Be cautious when carrying flammable or combustible household products that can cause fires or explosions if handled wrong, such as aerosols, cooking oils, rubbing alcohol, and hand sanitizer.

  • Keep your cell phone charged when wildfires could be in your area. Purchase backup charging devices to power electronics.

Stay Safe DURING Wildfires

  • Evacuate immediately if authorities tell you to do so!

    • ​Consider making plans with friends or family to shelter with them where you may be safer and more comfortable.

  • If trapped, then call 911 and give your location, but be aware that emergency response could be delayed or impossible. Turn on lights to help rescuers find you.

  • Pay attention to emergency alerts and notifications for information and instructions.

  • Use an N95 mask to protect yourself from smoke inhalation.

    • If you already have one at home, use a respirator, like an N95 respirator, to keep smoke particles out of the air you breathe. Respirators are not meant to fit children. Due to COVID-19, it may be difficult to find respirators. While cloth masks, surgical masks, and dust masks provide protection from exposure to COVID-19, they will not protect you from smoke inhalation.

    • If you do not already have N95 respirators, you can reduce your exposure to smoke by doing the following:

      • Choose a room to close off from outside air and set up a portable air cleaner or filter to keep the air in this room clean even when it’s smoky in the rest of the building and outdoors.

      • Use high efficiency filters in your central air conditioning system to capture fine particles from smoke. If your system has fresh air intake, set the system to “recirculate” mode and close the outdoor intake damper.

      • Avoid using anything that burns, such as candles and fireplaces. Do not vacuum, as vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home. Do not smoke tobacco or other products. Smoking puts even more pollution into the air.

  • If you are not ordered to evacuate but smoky conditions exist, stay inside in a safe location or go to a community building where smoke levels are lower.

  • Pay attention to any health symptoms if you have asthma, COPD, heart disease, or are pregnant. If you are sick and need medical attention, contact your healthcare provider for further care instructions and shelter in place, if possible. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.  If staying at a shelter or public facility, alert shelter staff immediately so they can call a local hospital or clinic.

Returning Home After a Wildfire

  • Do not return home until authorities say it is safe to do so.

  • Avoid hot ash, charred trees, smoldering debris, and live embers. The ground may contain heat pockets that can burn you or spark another fire.  When cleaning up ash, use a respirator to limit your exposure.

  • When cleaning, wear protective clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, work gloves, appropriate cloth face coverings or masks, and sturdy thick-soled shoes during clean-up efforts.

  • Use appropriate masks or respirators.

  • When cleaning up ash, use a respirator to limit your exposure and wet debris to minimize breathing dust particles  

    • People with asthma and/or other lung conditions should take precautions in areas with poor air quality, as it can worsen symptoms. Children should not help with clean-up efforts.

    • Pay attention to any health symptoms if you or your children have asthma, COPD, heart disease, or are pregnant. Get to medical help if you need it.

  • Document property damage with photographs. Conduct an inventory and contact your insurance company for assistance.

  • Send text messages or use social media to reach out to family and friends. Phone systems are often busy following a disaster. Make calls only in emergencies.

  • Engage virtually with your community through video and phone calls. Know that it’s normal to feel anxious or stressed. Take care of your body and talk to someone if you are feeling upset. Many people may already feel fear and anxiety about the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). The threat of a wildfire can add additional stress. Follow CDC guidance for managing stress during a traumatic event.

Resources

Survivor Stories (Video).

Wildfire Information Sheet (PDF).

Smokey the Bear (Link).