Firefighters fighting a blaze

What To Do If You're Being Evacuated Because of Wildfire

Fast-moving wildfires blaze across parts of the U.S. more frequently and with more intensity, leaving many homes in the path of destruction, and straining fire management and protection resources in western states. This year’s wildfire season has already proven difficult for firefighters and homeowners in wildfire evacuation zones.

The prospect of leaving your home in the face of uncertainty is scary, but Mercury Insurance has some helpful words of advice.

How to prepare for a wildfire evacuation

  • Create an emergency plan and review it with all family members so you are prepared in case of a wildfire evacuation from your home. This plan should include items you will need to bring with you, a meeting place, and a list of who is responsible for specific tasks. It should also include a plan for your pets to ensure they are safe and have everything they will need.
  • Stay in touch with local law enforcement to get an idea of when evacuations might happen and if any roads will be closed because of the fire.
  • Follow the evacuation routes posted by local law enforcement. 
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to get to safety. When authorities tell you to evacuate, it’s time to leave immediately.
  • Make sure your vehicle has a full tank of gas, as gas stations might be busy or closed along the evacuation route. If you see a fire burning close to your home, fill up the gas tank early so you can get out quickly.
  • Gather prized and irreplaceable possessions, medications and important documents, like birth certificates, passports, bank account information, medical documents and insurance policies. Make sure these are boxed and near the door so they can be easily loaded into your vehicle at a moment’s notice.
  • Pack clothes, phone chargers and comfort items, like your child’s favorite stuffed animal. Ask local law enforcement if they have an estimated amount of time that you’ll need to be away from your home to determine how many items to bring.
  • Secure your home by locking doors and windows. Turn off and unplug electrical devices except your refrigerator and freezer, unless instructed to do so by the fire department. Turn off the gas and water at the mains prior to leaving. Turning off the water will help to maintain water pressure for firefighters battling the blaze.
  • Let friends and family members not staying with you know where you’re going and how to reach you. To ensure privacy and to protect your home from burglars while you are gone, it’s best to do this through a phone call, text message or email, not social media.

Read Mercury’s FAQ guide to learn how you can protect your family, pets and property prior to wildfire season. Additional details can be found at www.firewise.org, www.cafiresafecouncil.org, www.fire.ca.gov and you can check your local ordinances for fire preparation guidelines.