Are you prepared for a wildfire? What to do during an evacuation

Jul 16, 2021

With temperatures rising around the Central Coast, fire experts say it’s important to be prepared for wildfires and have a plan in place in case you need to evacuate.

Adan Orozco, a fire captain public information officer for Cal Fire SLO said when preparing for an evacuation, it’s important to distinguish between an evacuation warning and an order.

“A warning is time for you to start thinking about grabbing your go bag and important personal belongings you need to take with you,” Orozco said. “Gather those up because when an evacuation order is confirmed, you have to leave – we are strongly urging that you leave right now.”

While Orozco said no one can make you leave your house, when an evacuation order is issued it’s important to follow the guidance. The next step is actually evacuating — and Orozco said knowing where you’re going is another part to plan ahead of time.

“Have a predetermined route on where you want to go or the safest route to take in the event of a fire because if one of your routes is going to be blocked by fire, you’re going to want to have that second route planned out already,” Orozco. said.

James Blattler is the public information officer for the City of San Luis Obispo Fire Department.

He said one of the tips the fire department recommends is leaving your home unlocked when you evacuate.

“Any time that the fire department ask individuals to evacuate we don't take that situation lightly and we understand thats it a difficult thing to leave your home and you do hear stories of individuals that will go and take advantage of these situations with homes, but understand that we do have law enforcement in the area that make it a priority to monitor evacuation areas and make sure that criminal activity is stopped when it’s seen,” Blattler said.

One of the things people may forget when they are evacuating is to remove flammable window shades or curtains from their windows, according to Blattler.

“When a fire burns through and area around homes, the radiant heat that is put out from those fires is really intense and can oftentimes ignite things on fire on the inside of the home and once that starts and nobody is home and there's limited fire resources around it’s going to be pretty devastating for that house,” Blattler said.

Blattler also said the fire department appreciates when people leave a ladder outside for firefighters to use in case the fire gets close to the house.

“So that way firefighters can go up if they see that an ember has landed on the roof they might be able to quickly put the ladder — the ladder left behind up — get up there and put the ember out before it starts to become a problem for that house,” Blattler said.

The most important thing for people to remember, Blattler said, is to be prepared.

“Evacuating during a wildfire can be a very stressful time and one of the best ways we recommend reducing that stress is being prepared and having a plan in place,” Blattler said.

For more information, you can visit the Ready for Wildfire website as well as the Ready, Set, Go! Wildfire Action Plan.