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
- 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.