The threat of wildland fires for people living near wildland areas or using recreational facilities in wilderness areas is real, especially in Island County. Preparing for wildland fires and protecting structures in the wildland has special challenges. Here are a few things you need to know.
Wildland Fire Preparedness
- Maintain a 30 foot defensible space around your home to act as a fire break.
- Clear a 10 foot area around propane tanks and the barbecue.
- Regularly dispose of newspapers and rubbish.
- Regularly clean roof and gutters.
- Landscape in zones around your house.
- Rake leaves, dead limbs and twigs. Clear flammable vegetation from around and under structures.
- Remove dead branches that extend over the roof.
- Ask the power company to clear branches from power lines.
- Stack firewood at least 100 feet away and uphill from your home.
- Clear combustible materials within 20 feet and use only UL-approved wood burning devices.
- Follow local burning regulations.
- Store flammable materials in approved safety cans.
- Inspect chimneys twice a year. Clean them at least once a year.
- Use 2" mesh screen beneath porches, decks, floor areas and the home itself. Also, screen opening to floors, roof and attic.
- Install smoke detectors on each level of your home; in your bedrooms; test monthly and change the batteries twice a year.
- Keep a ladder that will reach the roof.
- Consider installing protective shutters or heavy fire-resistant drapes.
- Keep handy household items that can be used as fire tools: a rake, hand saw or chain saw, bucket and shovel.
If time permits
- Close windows, vents, doors, blinds, and noncombustible window coverings.
- Remove lightweight curtains.
- Shut off gas at the meter.
- Turn off pilot lights.
- Close Fireplace damper and screen.
- Move flammable furniture into the center of the home away from windows and sliding glass doors.
- Turn on a light in each room to increase visibility of your home in heavy smoke.
- Seal attic and ground vents with pre-cut plywood or commercial seals.
- Turn off propane tanks.
- Place combustible patio furniture inside.
- Connect the garden hose to outside taps.
- Place lawn sprinklers on the roof and near above-ground fuel tanks.
- Wet the roof.
- Wet or remove shrubs within 15 feet of the home.
- Gather fire tools.
When Fire Threatens
- Listen to your radio for reports and evacuation information.
- Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of evacuation.
- Close doors and windows.
- Leave the key in the ignition.
- Close garage windows and doors, but leave them unlocked.
- Disconnect automatic garage door openers.
- Confine pets to one room. Plan for their care if you must evacuate.
- Arrange for temporary housing outside the threatened area.
- If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
- Tell someone when you are leaving and where you are going.
- If you evacuate your home place a note on the door indicating when you left and where you are going.
- Wear protective clothing -- sturdy shoes, cotton or woolen clothing, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, hat, gloves and a handkerchief to protect your face.
- Take your disaster supplies kit.
- Lock your home.
- Choose a route away from fire hazards.
- Watch for changes in the speed and direction of fire and smoke.
Who is at Greatest Risk from Wildfire Smoke?
- People who have heart disease, lung diseases, chest pain, or asthma, are at higher risk from wildfire smoke (click to view fact sheet).
- Older adults are more likely to be affected by smoke. This may be due to their increased risk of heart and lung diseases (click to view fact sheet).
- Children are more likely to be affected by health threats from smoke. Children’s airways are still developing and they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults. Also, children often spend more time outdoors engaged in activity and play (click to view Air Pollution and School Activities).
Wildfire Smoke Information
- Check local air quality reports. Listen and watch for news or health warnings about smoke (see Alert & Warning). You may also find reports about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index (AQI) at AirNow.gov. In addition, pay attention to public health messages about safety measures.
- Keep indoor air as clean as possible if you are advised to stay indoors. Keep windows and doors closed. Run an air conditioner, but keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside. If you do not have an air conditioner and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed, seek shelter in a designated evacuation center or away from the affected area.
- Avoid activities that increase indoor pollution. Burning candles, fireplaces, or gas stoves can increase indoor pollution. Vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home, contributing to indoor pollution. Smoking also puts even more pollution into the air.
- Prevent wildfires from starting. Prepare, build, maintain and extinguish campfires safely. Follow local regulations if you burn trash or debris. Check with your local fire department to be sure the weather is safe enough for burning.
- Follow the advice of your healthcare provider about medicines and about your respiratory management plan if you have asthma or another lung disease. Consider evacuating if you are having trouble breathing. Call your doctor for advice if your symptoms worsen.
- Do not rely on dust masks for protection. Paper “comfort” or “dust” masks commonly found at hardware stores are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks will not protect your lungs from the small particles found in wildfire smoke. (click here for more information about Respirator Masks).
- Evacuate from the path of wildfires. Sign up for Island County Emergency Alerts and listen to the news to learn about current evacuation orders. Follow the instructions of local officials about when and where to evacuate. Take only essential items with you. Follow designated evacuation routes–others may be blocked–and plan for heavy traffic.