Expert gives advice on how to prepare for a wildfire evacuation

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JANESVILLE, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 16: Residents evacuate as the Dixie fire burns into a neighborhood on August 16, 2021 near Janesville, California. The Dixie fire has burned over 578,000 acres, has destroyed over 1,000 homes and threatens thousands more. The fire, the largest single fire in California state history, is 31 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

UTAH (ABC4) – Roughly 10,000 people living in homes in the path of the Parleys Canyon Fire were evacuated Saturday.

On Monday, evacuations were extended in some Summit County neighborhoods through Wednesday and Thursday.

Evacuations due to wildfire are nothing new in Utah, but with the majority of Utah in exceptional drought, the state is seeing a particularly intense wildfire season.

Kayli Yardley, Prevention Specialist for the state with the Utah Division of Forestry Fire & State Lands, tells ABC4.com how Utahns can prepare evacuations if they occur.

Have a Wildfire Action Plan in place.

A wildfire action plan is “a checklist of things that you should have, including, an evacuation route, where you should meet, hopefully you have an emergency supply kit,” Yardley explains.

She recommends following the Ready, Set, Go! program, a government program that outlines specific steps people can take to prepare for wildfires and how to create individualized action plans.

The plan should include an emergency meeting location and several evacuation routes.

Have an emergency supply kit and keep it up-to-date

The Red Cross recommends having an emergency supply kit assembled for each family member. The organization has a list of supplies to include in each kit on their website.

Once you have emergency supply kits, make sure to keep them up-to-date, Yardley advises.

“If you’ve already have an emergency kit, make sure that you’ve got stuff that is not expired or just update it. It shouldn’t take more than an hour to go through your stuff, your bucket, whatever you’ve got, and make sure that it is ready to go,” she explains. “And then you could pull it out every year and make sure again. Just being consistent and keeping that updated- that’s going to be your key.”

Yardley also recommends having the Six P’s ready in case of the need for immediate evacuation. These include the following:

  1. People and pets
  2. Papers, phone numbers, and important documents
  3. Prescriptions, vitamins, and eyeglasses
  4. Pictures and irreplaceable memorabilia
  5. Personal computer hard drives
  6. Plastic (credit cards, ATM cards) and cash
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Law enforcement is probably not going to allow you back in your home after you’ve been evacuated, Yardley says, so it’s important to have everything you will need with you.

Shut off your electricity, heat, and water.

Make sure your family knows where the shut-off controls are and how to safely turn them off, readyforwildfire.org advises.

Yardley says embers can travel a long way and all it takes is one spark to start a fire.

“…. if you already have your stuff shut off, more than likely, your home is going to be more protected, she states.

Creating defensible space is another step that homeowners can take to protect their home in advance.

Create defensible space around home

According to Yardley, creating defensible space is creating a wildfire buffer zone that extends 30 feet around your home. The goal is that this buffer zone will slow or stop the spread of wildfire to a house.

This can include clearing dead or dry vegetation, reducing the density of vegetation, and trimming trees that may be hanging over your home.

GREENBRAE, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 29: Nicolas McNamara (R) and Kristi Cascio, (L) inspectors with the Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority, survey a property during a defensible space inspection on June 29, 2021 in Greenbrae, California. As the severe drought continues in California, the newly established Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority is conducting county-wide defensible space inspections to help educate homeowners in identifying potential fire hazards around their homes ahead of wildfire season. A total of 26 inspectors are going door-to-door and logging things of concern. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

“Just making sure things are clean, clear of vegetation,” she says. “Because embers- when they land in that that gutter or you’ve got that extra leaf litter that’s been hanging there- it’s dry, it’s dead, and it’s going to combust pretty easily.”

Yardley says she knows people loves trees and vegetation in their yard.

“Just be more aware that you don’t have your trees and that sort of thing that are overhanging your home,” she says.

People may even choose to change the materials on their home to non-combustible ones. Yardley says she hopes recent wildfires will prompt people to consider taking these steps.

“Hopefully people are aware and they think, this was really, really close to home. Maybe we should do something to prepare at home to be a little bit more protected,” she explains.

Defensible space is especially important for people living in a Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), an area that is within or located near a community that has high wildfire risk, she says.

According to Yardley, people can prepare now for any type of emergency.

“It’s good no matter what to have some kind of an evacuation plan in order, whether it’s wildfire or some other natural disaster.”

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