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Wildfires threaten lives and destroy homes and natural resources. You can take action now to help save lives and help prevent or reduce damage caused by wildfires.
Make a Family Plan
Talk to all family members, including the little ones. You and your family might not be together during a disaster. Collect contact information of everyone in the family and make sure everyone knows where and how to reconnect after wildfire evacuation. Visit the Ready.gov pages to learn how to make a plan [external link].
Family members should have an out-of-area contact they can call to let them know they are safe when they are separated. Prepare wallet cards with the contact’s information [PDF].
If you have special physical or medical needs, be sure to have an extra supply of medication and supplies to take with you if you evacuate. People with heart and lung diseases must be especially careful around wood smoke. Discuss your emergency plans with your medical provider.
Develop an Evacuation Plan
If you need to evacuate your house, determine a process for evacuating quickly. Practice the plan at least two times each year. Things to consider when developing your evacuation plan:
- What are the items from your house you would need to collect during a wildfire pre-evacuation or evacuation?
- Store copies of your vital records and lists, photos or videos of valuable items in a safety deposit box. Include updated insurance policies.
- What is your emergency plan for your pets and livestock?
- Designate a “safety zone.” What are the different routes out of the neighborhood to get to the “safety zone?” what if the planned evacuation routes are blocked by fire?
- Make sure everyone knows where everything is located and who would be responsible for getting what. Then — practice!
Sign up for Emergency Notifications
- LookoutAlert is the official emergency notification system of the regional collaborative of Jefferson County and all cities within it, the City and County of Broomfield and the City of Westminster. Through LookoutAlert, emergency responders are able to provide emergency and public safety messages to residents.
- Smart911 [external link] is a free service with which users create a safety profile by entering vital data they want made available about themselves, their family, their residence and even their pets. Data given can include photos, and information regarding medical conditions, allergies, disabilities and/or special needs, home addresses of cell phone callers and floor plans to name a few. Smart911 [external link] delivers this information automatically to dispatchers, who then enable responders to be more successful with access to critical health and logistical information before arriving at the scene of an emergency.
Know your Neighbors
Your neighbors can be your best support system. Talk to your neighbors about wildfire mitigation and how you can help neighbors who may need assistance, such as the elderly, people with infants or those with special health care needs. Talk with them about how you can work together — who might need help evacuating? Does anyone have health issues to consider?
Evaluate your House
Begin your evaluation at your driveway and clearly mark all driveways with names/addresses. Find out if your roof is hail and high-wind resistant. Are windows and doors built to withstand the weather and debris? And, just like we make sure our pipes can withstand cold Colorado winters, make sure your drains can withstand rainy springs and summers. Check your drains every spring to make sure they aren’t blocked and are flowing away from the home. Remove firewood, shrubs and other combustibles away from the home. Call your local fire, forestry, or natural resources office, or go to Firewise website [external link] for more ideas on home design and landscaping. Know how to shut off utilities, including water and electrical. Develop a pictograph card, laminate and post it near the shut of valves. Consider installing exterior sprinkler systems [external link] to protect your home during a wildfire.
Make Emergency Go-bags
Put together a 72-hour emergency “go-bag” supply kit. Include water, food and protective clothing, including sturdy shoes, cotton or wool clothing, long pants, long-sleeved shirt, gloves, a handkerchief, medications, phone charger and travel toiletries. Store in easy-to-carry packs. Have children help put together go-bags (these may include some toys or a stuffed animal). Other suggestions on what to include in your kit can be found at Ready Gov Website [external link]. Be sure to include copies of personal documents and contact lists, necessary medications and extra cash. We know it can get expensive, so focus on the necessities first.
Trim your Trees
Before a wildfire, make sure trees are trimmed to prevent branches from breaking and causing damage. Clean up pine needles, fallen branches and old leaves from the ground.
- First: Remain calm. Search social media (e.g., Twitter), listen to the radio and/or check local news broadcasts for fire reports and evacuation information. Follow the advice given by authorities. (However, if you feel threatened, do not wait to leave.) Tell family and friends you may need to evacuate and let them know where you are going. Use your out-of-area contact card.
- Second: Put on protective clothing to protect your body, face and lungs. Pre-load your car with emergency supplies, vital records and other valuables, following your evacuation plan. Face your vehicle in the direction of escape. Keep pets confined nearby. If you have livestock, implement your emergency plan.
- Third: Prepare a large note to post at your home that tells when you left and where you are going with a contact number. Place it in a protective plastic page protector. If there is time, close and lock all windows, close vents and all interior doors, remove lightweight curtains and shut off your gas utilities. Remove any planted pots, patio furniture or clutter from your deck and place in a garage, if available.
If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. DO NOT WAIT.
Other Tips for Evacuation:
- Turn off your home lights.
- Lock your doors.
- Post your prepared note on the main entrance so it is easy to see.
- Turn on your emergency exterior sprinkler system, if available.
- Choose one of your evacuation routes away from fire hazards. Drive with your headlights on and watch for emergency vehicles.
- If your evacuation route(s) are burning, stay in your car or home. Do not attempt to escape on foot as the smoke and flames are more dangerous. Call 911 and let responders know your exact location. Be proactive to get safe.
- Do not attempt to re-enter the area until firefighters have declared it safe.
Returning home after a fire?
Here are some helpful resources regarding health and safety when returning into fire evacuation areas.
- Coming Home After a Fire Evacuation
- Health-Related Information for Properties Impacted by Forest Fires
- Safety Precautions for Re-Entry
Wildfire recovery can be a difficult and trying time for homeowners, private land owners and local communities. Below are some places to start on your journey to recovery.
- Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Blog
- Jefferson County Office of Emergency Management
- Jefferson County Sheriff Wildfire (Fire information Hotline, fire restriction information and bans in place)
Services: Learn about Health Information, Vital Record Replacement and Getting Back to Normal
- Check your drinking water. Drinking water systems may be affected by power outages, fluctuations in water pressure and other fire-related issues. Always check our Drinking Water Alerts page to see if your water system has been affected.
- Jefferson County Public Health Air Quality
- Recovering from a Wildfire Psychologically (APA)
- Emotional Recovery: A guide to Picking Up the Pieces After a Fire: Important Steps for Your Safe and Speedy Recovery (Red Cross)
- Check COEmergency.com for shelter information or go to your local emergency management website.
- Go to Jefferson County Public Health Vital Records to replace birth and death certificates.
- A Guide to Wildfire Recovery (Oregon State)
- After the Fire- Returning to Normal (FEMA)
Debris Removal: Learn what You Need to Know about Debris Removal, Re-entry Approval and Forms
It's a good idea to be cautious with your food and medication after a fire. For facts and suggestions, please view these reports:
- If in Doubt Throw it Out - What to do With Food and Medication After a Wildfire
- Canned Food Precautions Can Keep You Safe After a Fire
- Food and Water Safety During Short-Term Power Outages
- A Right of Entry Permit authorizes the government in which the property is located to enter in and perform inspections and/or emergency protective measures at no expense to the owner.
Wildfire References, Resources and Additional Information
- Ready.gov - Wildfires [external link]
- Ready, Set, Go! [external link]
- Surviving Wildfire [external link]
- Colorado Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal [external link]
- Colorado State Forest Service [external link]
- FEMA [external link]
- Jefferson County Emergency Preparedness Guide [external link]
- Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Blog [external link]
- Jefferson County Office of Emergency Management
- Jefferson County Sheriff Wildfire
- National Interagency Fire Center [external link]
- U.S. Fire Administration [external link]
- U.S. Forest Service [external link]
- National Fire Protection Association [external link]
- Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association [external link]
- Firewise [external link]
- Red Cross - Wildfire Preparedness [external link]
- InciWeb [external link]
- Colorado Department of Homeland Security [external link]
- Wildfires & Smoke: What You Should Know