Wildfire safety: Before, during and after

Climate change and extreme weather lead to more wildfires – like the devastating Fort McMurray wildfire in May 2016. If you have a home or vacation property in a wildfire-prone area, learn how to protect it and your family before, during and after a wildfire.

BEFORE a wildfire

Prepare:

  • Have a household emergency/escape plan (practice until everyone’s clear on their role).
  • Assemble emergency supply kits for your home and car. Tip: include cash.
  • Prepare a home inventory.

In late spring/early summer:

  • Remove dried branches, leaves and debris from your property, roof and gutters often.
  • Place all combustibles (for example, propane barbeques, lawn mowers and gas cans) 10 metres from your home.
  • Avoid using dry mulches alongside your home.
  • Keep your lawn trimmed to 10 cm or less.
  • Move wood piles away from your home.
  • Keep a lawn sprinkler in an accessible location.
  • Ask your local utility company to remove branches or vegetation near power lines.

DURING a wildfire

If a wildfire is approaching your area:

  • Listen to local media and authorities for wildfire updates, and pre-arrange shelter.
  • Close (do not lock) all home and car windows and doors.
  • Apply duct tape over vents and move combustibles away from windows.
  • Fill any large outdoor vessels – pools, hot tubs or garbage cans – with water to slow or discourage fire.
  • If wildfire is very near, wear protective clothing and footwear to protect from flying sparks and ashes.
  • Evacuate immediately if needed, even if the above steps aren’t completed.

AFTER a wildfire

Check with authorities before returning home. If it’s safe to return and your home is damaged:

  • Do not turn on utilities yourself. The fire department will ensure utilities (water, electricity and natural gas) are either safe to use or are disconnected before they leave the site.
  • Be aware of structural damage to your roof and floors.
  • Wear protective clothing such as pants, long sleeves, gloves, hard hats and steel-toe footwear with a sole plate.
  • Throw away food, beverages and medicine exposed to heat, smoke, soot or water.
  • If there’s no power, check to make sure the main breaker is on; fires can cause breakers to trip. If the breakers are on and you’re still without power, contact your utility company and use battery-powered lanterns and flashlights rather than candles.
  • Document any damage to your belongings by taking a photo or video, and report the amount of damage to your insurance provider and local municipality.