Wildfire Evacuation Tips, Again

 Posted by on 25 June 2013 at 10:00 am  Colorado, Emergencies, Personal, Wildfires
Jun 252013

Here’s why wildfires scare me down to the darkest depths of my soul… explained in just 8 seconds of video:

Last spring, I posted some good tips on wildfire evacuations that I learned from excellent presentation by Fran Santagata of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. I’d been through two major fires before, so I thought that I was pretty well-informed. To my surprise, I learned far more than expected.

Given that Colorado is having yet another god-awful fire season — once again, with fires burning all over the state — I thought I’d repost my notes from that presentation. I didn’t take notes on everything, just on points that I found particularly important or that I didn’t already know. Those notes are below.

At present, Paul and I are not in any danger of evacuation, but a fire could blow up in our neighborhood in very short order. Our neighborhood isn’t forested, but we have lots of scrub oak. I could evacuate in very short order if needed — but wow, I’d hate to have to do that.

Okay, now without further ado, here are my notes from last year’s presentation.

Make a Plan

  • Create a 72-hour kit
  • Identify valuables to take
  • Develop a communication plan for your family
  • Select a default meeting place for your family
  • Figure out where to stay if you’re evacuated
  • Find hotels that accept pets

Prepare Your House

  • Create breaks in the vegetation, so that the home can be defended
  • Identify and address potential combustibles, including firewood, decks, and gutters
  • Ask your local fire department to inspect your property
  • Beware of the “ladder fuels” from small bushes to trees to the house
  • Add a flag to identify the location of the septic tank

When a Fire Hits

  • 1pm to 5 pm is the prime fire danger time
  • Close your windows and doors
  • Remove your drapes
  • Leave the water hoses hooked up
  • Open your driveway gates: give emergency vehicles access
  • Leave a note on the door (and gate) with contact information


  • Sign up to your county sheriff’s alert notification system
  • Follow your local news and sheriff on Facebook and Twitter
  • Be sure to have a phone that doesn’t require power, preferably in the bedroom
  • Call 911 if you see or smell smoke
  • Use a NOAA radio

Route Selection

  • Listen to the directions in the notification carefully
  • Know the alternate routes out of your neighborhood, including emergency access roads
  • Know where the shelters will be for humans and animals (e.g. fairgrounds)

What To Take

  • Humans and animals first — everything else can be replaced
  • Heirlooms, mementos, photos, computers, important papers
  • Clothes, toiletries, medications
  • Food and medications for your animals

Be Safe

  • Drive slowly! Think clearly! Be observant!
  • Don’t stop to take pictures
  • Beware of firefighters, wildlife, pets, falling trees, and more


  • Evacuations might be done in stages — or not
  • Follow the instructions of law enforcement on the ground
  • The shelter will be a good source of up-to-date information
  • Do not lock the house, if you’re comfortable with that: firefighters and law enforcement might need access, including to save their own lives

Returning Home

  • Expect some psychological trauma

Other Tasks

  • Take pictures of the house and stuff for insurance
  • Find ways to identify your animals (e.g brand or microchip)
  • If you have special needs, get registered on the special needs registry
  • Do not rely on the county to transport your animals (e.g. horses)
  • Identify multiple backup plans
  • Check insurance for wildfire protection

If you have any additional tips, please post them in the comments!

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