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American Red Cross of Montana: how to prepare for wildfires

The Red Cross is offering reminders on how to get ready for the upcoming wildfire season
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Posted at 12:35 PM, Jul 03, 2024

MISSOULA — The American Red Cross of Montana has a few reminders about how you and your family can prepare for the upcoming wildfire season.

Scott O’Connell with the Red Cross says that by taking a few simple steps now, you can make all the difference later.

First off, clear areas near your home of brush and flammable materials.

The next thing you should do is make an emergency evacuation route and pack filled with a first-aid kit, flashlight, cellphone, medications, chargers, non-perishable food, water and contact information.

You should also always make sure your car is parked facing the direction you plan to evacuate from.

If you're caught outside in a fire, crouch in a body of water. If there is no water, lie flat-face down- and cover your body with soil and breathe close to the ground.

The Red Cross also advises that once the fire has passed, don't return home until local officials say it's okay to do so. When you do return, be sure to check your property for damage and embers that could reignite.

Finally, if you’re told to evacuate, don't wait.

Click here for additional information from the Red Cross.

Basic wildfire safety from the Red Cross

  • Keep the areas surrounding your home clear of brush and materials that may catch fire.
  • Assemble an emergency kit to take with you when you evacuate. Items to include:
    • First-aid kit
    • Flashlight
    • Cellphone with chargers
    • Medications
    • Family contact information
    • Nonperishable food and water
  • Back your car into the garage or park it outside, facing the direction of your evacuation route.
  • Confine pets to one room so you can find them if you need to evacuate quickly.
  • Limit exposure to smoke and dust. Keep indoor air clean by closing windows and doors to prevent outside smoke from getting in.

If you’re trapped outdoors, crouch in a pond, river or pool. 

  • Don’t put wet clothing or bandanas over your mouth or nose, as moist air can cause more damage to your airway than dry air at the same temperature.
  • If there is no body of water, look for shelter in a cleared area or among a bed of rocks. Lie flat, face down, and cover your body with soil. Breathe the air close to the ground to avoid scorching your lungs or inhaling smoke.

Don’t return home until officials say it’s safe to do so. 

  • Inspect the roof immediately and extinguish any sparks and embers. Wildfires may have left embers that could reignite.
  • Check your home for embers that could cause fires. Look for signs of a fire, including smoke or sparks.
  • Avoid damaged or downed power lines, poles and wires.
  • Keep your animals under your direct control. Hidden embers and hot spots could burn them.
  • Wet down debris to minimize breathing in dust particles.
  • Wear leather gloves and shoes with heavy soles.
  • Throw out any food that has been exposed to heat, smoke or soot.