Safe Evacuation Procedures During Wildfire


by Sue McMurray

During wildfire, do not wait to be told to evacuate. Doing so could cost your life.

“Sixty percent of lives lost to wildland fire are of those that chose to stay and wait and see, and then evacuated too late,” said Yvonne Barkley, University of Idaho associate extension forester.

Barkley’s advice comes as the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise is forecasting an above normal potential for wildfire in late summer and early fall, despite the above normal amounts of precipitation this spring.

She provides these tips to help people prepare themselves and their families for emergency evacuation during wildfire.

·         Gather all persons in the household together and let everyone know you are getting ready to evacuate.

·         Have everyone dress for safety. Put on socks, closed-toed leather shoes or boots, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Grab a pair of leather gloves, a bandanna and a hat.

·         Park vehicles in the direction you will escape. Leave keys in the ignition.

·         Pack emergency kits containing clothing, food, water and valuables in your vehicle.

·         Put pets in pet carriers and in a safe, accessible place, ready to load into your vehicles when you leave.

·         Load horses or other livestock that will need to be evacuated.

·         Check with neighbors to see if they need assistance.

·         Notify others when you are leaving and where you plan to go.

Only after the family is prepared, and if there is time, Barkley suggests these additional steps:

    • Look around for flammable materials lying around or against your home and move them to a safe place. Items include: patio furniture and cushions; hammocks; door mats; window boxes and planters; wicker baskets, pine cones and dried flower arrangements; newspapers; garbage cans without lids; barbecue propane tanks; brooms; and boats, campers, canoes and kayaks.

  • Shut off the gas supply.
  • Turn on all indoor and outdoor lights to make your house easier for firefighters to find in the dark.
  • Close windows, doors, curtains and blinds.
  • Cover attic and basement vents.
  • Get the emergency generator ready to run any pumps.
  • Place a ladder to the roof opposite the approaching fire and put a sprinkler on the roof. Wet down decks, flammable siding and lawns.
  • Using aluminum foil or metal flashing, cover areas where combustible materials meet each other. Think of where snow gathers and drifts in the winter – windowsills, where the house meets the deck and corners; this is where firebrands and embers can gather and start a blaze.

More in-depth information is available on two new websites:

In addition, the complete guide, “Protecting and Landscaping Homes in the Wildland/Urban Interface,” is available from the University of Idaho. It provides insight to understanding wildfire and how homes are destroyed, as well as tips to minimize home ignition potential. The publication costs $4 and is available by contacting Agricultural Publications, University of Idaho, P.O. Box 442240, Moscow, Idaho, 83844-2240, (208) 885-7982 or by e-mailing

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