Wildfires – Mitigation (Actions Before, During, After)


Learning what actions to take before, during and after a wildfire increases individual and family resilience and speeds the recovery process.

The following actions are some important recommendations that you can follow through each stage of a Wildfire emergency:[1] [2]

Actions Before: Determine Risk, Increase Knowledge, Safeguard, Plan

Read Publications and Handouts

General All-Hazard Actions:

  • Determine the disaster risks in your locale and the hazards that accompany them.
  • Increase your knowledge about the emergency warning signals and alert notifications used in your community.
  • Instruct family members how to shut off water, gas and electricity to your house.
  • Make the necessary property preparations to reduce the damage from the hazard.
  • Acquire a backup generator in case of a prolonged power failure.
  • Check into insurance (property, health, life, and hazard type).
  • Make the necessary financial arrangements in case of a sudden evacuation and power outage that shuts down local ATMs and banks.
  • Organize important documents and records and store them in a portable lock box or safe-deposit box.
  • Perform home inventory video taping and store tape in a portable lock box or safe-deposit box.
  • Develop an Emergency Communication Plan with evacuation plan and ask an out-of-state person to serve as the "family contact".
  • Assemble a shelter-in-place Emergency Supplies Kit.
  • Assemble a mobile Emergency Supplies Kit that can serve as a “grab and go” bag?
  • Get a family member trained in first aid and CPR.
  • Make the necessary preparations and arrangements for pets, seniors, and the disabled.
  • Familiarize yourself with the emergency plans of your family member's employment building, school, day care center, or nursing home.

Hazard Specific Actions:

  • Learn and teach safe fire practices - build fires away from nearby trees or bushes, always have a way to extinguish a fire, never leave a fire unattended.
  • Obtain local building codes and weed abatement ordinances for buildings near wooded areas.
  • Use fire-resistant materials when building, renovating, or retrofitting structures. Avoid using wooden shakes and shingles for roofing.
  • Use only thick, tempered safety glass in large windows and doors.
  • Create a safety zone to separate home from combustible plants and vegetables.
  • Install electrical lines underground, if possible.
  • Prune all branches around residence to a height of 8-10 feet.
  • Keep trees adjacent to buildings free of dead or dying wood and moss.
  • Remove all dead limbs, needles, and debris from rain gutters.
  • Store combustible/flammable materials in approved safety containers and keep away from home.
  • Keep chimney clean.
  • Avoid open burning, especially during dry season Install smoke detectors on every level of your home.

Actions During: Safety Basics, Evacuation, Shelter in Place

If trapped outside in a wildfire, you CANNOT outrun it:

  • Crouch in a pond or river and cover head and upper body with wet clothing.
  • If a body of water is unavailable, look for shelter in a cleared area or among a bed of rocks and lie flat and cover body with wet clothing or soil.

If within a structure or home:

  • Listen to radio for emergency information.
  • Remove combustible items (outdoor furniture, umbrellas, tarp coverings, and firewood) from around the home.
  • Take down flammable drapes and curtains and close all Venetian blinds or noncombustible window coverings
  • Close all doors and windows inside home to prevent draft.
  • Close gas valves and turn off pilot light.
  • Turn on a light in each room for visibility in heavy smoke.
  • Place valuables that will not be damaged by water, in a pool or pond.
  • If hoses and adequate water are available, leave sprinklers on roofs and anything that might be damaged by fire.
  • Be ready to evacuate all family members and pets when fire nears or when instructed to do so by local officials.

Actions After: Get Disaster Relief, Clean-up, Salvage

  • Be cautious when re-entering a burned wildland area - hot spots can flare up without warning.
  • Check the roof immediately and extinguish any sparks or embers and the attic for hidden burning sparks.
  • Re-check for smoke and sparks throughout the home for several hours afterward.
  • Breathe the air close to the ground through a wet cloth to avoid scorching lungs or inhaling smoke.



  1. American Red Cross, CDC – Emergency Preparedness and Response, FEMA – Are You Ready? Guide, Ready.gov, Be a Force of Nature with NOAA’s Weather Ready Nation, National Weather Service Weather Safety
  2. Reminder: The information contained in this website is for general information purposes only. Please review the Terms and Conditions page for agreement of use.