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Be ready if wildfire threatens your family, home with this handy checklist

From the Series: Wildfire County - Planning for the next big blaze series
  • Updated
  • 3 min to read
Ready! Set! Go!

Santa Barbara County Fire Department offers a free guide to help you prepare for wildfire and evacuation. The guide can be downloaded at or picked up at any County Fire location.

When a wildfire threatens and you have to evacuate, you won’t have time to think about everything you have to do, much less search for the important items you need to take with you. Now is the time to prepare.

Here’s a checklist you can use to help you get ready and survive.


• Make digital copies of important papers and photos.

• Have an escape plan; locate routes out of neighborhood; plan meeting spot if family is separated and designate out-of-area friend or relative as check-in contact.

• Put together an emergency supply kit of items packable in advance in plastic bins with secure lids you can grab and throw into a vehicle. Include important papers and photos, battery-powered radio, flashlights, extra batteries for all items, first-aid kit and blankets.

• Put together a kit for any pets with beds, food and water dishes, leashes, records of immunizations and licenses; have pet carriers for transporting dogs and cats, make sure they're used to being in them.


• Alert family and neighbors you may be evacuating.

• Add last of items to you and your pet’s emergency supply kits: chargers for electronic devices, prescription medications, food for family and pets and a gallon of water per person and per pet per day for three days.

• Dress appropriately for weather, have filter mask or bandana to cover mouth and nose; have pet carriers ready.

• Tune to local news radio, TV or government social media sites for information and updates.

• Remain close to home, keep pets near, stay hydrated.

• If you feel unsafe, don’t wait for an evacuation order; just go.


• When notified to evacuate by firefighters, sheriff’s deputies, police officers or reverse 911 call, leave as soon as possible; don’t panic.

• Don’t leave sprinklers running; turn on porch light; tape note to front or garage door with bold letters saying "all evacuated"; if time allows, turn off gas service.

• If heavy smoke affects visibility, drive carefully; don’t overdrive sight distance.

• Go to prearranged meeting place or straight to evacuation center.

• Provide American Red Cross with status and location for worried friends and relatives.


In your home

• Close but do not lock all windows and doors; keep family together; remain calm and stay inside until fire passes or rescuers arrive.

• If it gets hot inside, remember it will be four to five times hotter outside; leave only if house ignites and, if possible, after wildfire has passed.

In your car

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• Park away from vegetation, roll up windows; cover mouth and nose with dry cloth; cover yourself and others with jackets or blankets.

• Stay in car until fire passes; if vehicle catches fire, exit only after wildfire has passed.

On foot

• Find area away from vegetation, lie face down, cover mouth and nose with dry cloth.


If you evacuated

• Wait until the neighborhood has been cleared for return; information will be available through media, at road blocks, in shelters and on county’s social media.

If you were trapped at home

• Check roof, exterior walls and attic; extinguish sparks and embers; check yard for burning wood piles, trees and fence posts.

• Even if you evacuated, follow that routine upon return.

OPINION Today’s editorial is all about sharing the stories of your friends and neighbors, and their thoughts and fears about wildfires, all of which collectively paint a crucially important picture.

Two methods of preventing and controlling wildfires are so mired in controversy that getting their use approved is difficult and if approved, opposition sometimes brings them to a halt.  Ironically, both sides cite the Thomas fire as evidence to bolster their positions.

The best way to prepare for wildfires is to prevent them from igniting in the first place. But that may be far easier said than done, because the primary cause of wildfires is people.

Fire officials attribute Santa Barbara County’s high risk, in part, to its location in the wildfire “Goldilocks zone." The county sits far enough north to get good winter rainfall, but it’s far enough south to feel the Southern California summer heat that cooks fuels tinder-dry.


County Reporter/Associate Editor

Lee Central Coast Newspapers associate editor Mike Hodgson covers Santa Barbara County government and events and issues in Santa Ynez Valley. Follow him on Twitter @MHodgsonSYVNews.

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