New York State Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services
Wildfire Safety Tips
Wildfires often spread quickly, putting New Yorkers, their families, their properties, and their businesses in danger. However, there are many ways to prepare yourself and your home for such emergencies.
Prepare Yourself And Plan Ahead
Make a family emergency plan and practice escape routes away from your home, by car and by foot. Visit the Citizen Preparedness Corps website for steps that families can take to create a household plan. Don't forget to plan, too, for your pets. Build an emergency kit, or "go kit". New Yorkers should have some basic supplies on hand in the event of a disaster or emergency. Visit the Citizen Preparedness Corps website to learn which items to include in a go kit. Sign up for NY-Alert at nyalert.gov. NY-Alert will notify you about red flag warnings and conditions in your community. Install smoke alarms on each floor of your home and check the batteries twice per year. Keep fire extinguishers in your home, and teach every member of the family how to use them. Teach children about fire safety and keep matches and lighters out of reach. Store emergency phone numbers and information in the cell phones of each of the members of your family.
- Make sure the number of your home address is clearly visible on your house so that emergency personnel can find it from the road, and ensure that fire vehicles can access your home easily.
- Review your homeowner's insurance policy and make a list of the contents of your home.
- Talk to your neighbors about wildfire safety, and consider how you could help neighbors with special needs.
Prepare Your Property
- Inspect your home's exterior at least once a year, and make outdoor spring cleaning a habit. Remove all dry grass, brush, and dead leaves within 30 feet of your home. Space trees and shrubs at least ten feet apart. Reduce the number of trees in heavily wooded areas, get rid of old tree stumps, and remove any vines growing on the side of your home.
- Mow your lawn regularly.
- Stack firewood and scrap wood piles from any buildings and clear away flammable vegetation close to the piles.
- Clean chimneys and stove pipes, and check their screens.
- Avoid letting flammable materials like rags and newspapers to accumulate.
- Prune the lower branches of tall trees to within six feet of the ground to keep ground fires from spreading into tree tops.
- Clear pine needles, leaves, or other debris from your roof and gutters. Remove tree limbs or dead branches hanging over your roof, and ask your power company to clear branches from power lines.
- Keep a hose attached to a working outside faucet that can be used to put out a small fire on or around your home when temperatures are above freezing.
Prevent Wildfires From Occurring
- Follow local burning laws. Open burning is the single greatest cause of wildfires across New York State. Familiarize yourself with the Department of Environmental Conservation's open burning regulations.
- Contact your local fire department for further information on fire laws.
- Report hazardous conditions that could cause a wildfire.
- If you are planning to go camping or spend time in the woods, check on local restrictions on campfires. Don't leave a campfire unattended, and make sure the fire is completely out before leaving it.
- Dispose of smoking materials and matches properly.
- Take extra care in dry grass. Don't park or idle your vehicle on it, and don't set hot gas-powered equipment in it.
Know What To Do When A Wildfire Occurs
- Call 9-1-1 if you see a wildfire. Don't assume somebody else has called the fire department, and do not panic. Describe the location of the fire, speak slowly and clearly, and answer any questions from the dispatcher.
- Establish lines of communication with local authorities and fire departments. Follow your local emergency personnel on Facebook and Twitter, and know how to reach them via phone and in person.
- Wear protective clothing and footwear.
- If there is time, prepare for evacuation.
- Shut off natural gas, propane, and fuel oil supplies at the source.
- Remove firewood, fuel, and debris from your yard.
- Close windows and doors in your home.
- If you are evacuating by car, include your go-kit and mementos. If evacuation is imminent, put your pets in the car and be ready to leave quickly.
- Turn on outside lights to make the house more visible in heavy smoke.
If You Are Evacuating Your Home
- Listen to your local authorities. Evacuate when you are told to do so.
- Following evacuation orders doesn't just help your family - it also clears the roads so firefighters can get equipment through to fight the fire.
- Take your go-kit, lock up your house, and follow a route away from the fire.
- Tell someone when you leave and let them know where you are going. Notify them, too, when you arrive.
- Do not return to your home until authorities tell you it is safe.
If Your Home Was Damaged
- Do not enter a fire-damaged building unless authorities say it's okay to do so.
- Stay away from damaged or downed power lines and wires, and call your power company so they can begin repairs.
- Have an electrician check your household wiring before the current is turned back on. Do not attempt to reconnect any utilities yourself - leave it to the fire department and other authorities.
- Beware of structural damage. Roofs and floors may be dangerous and in need of repair.
- Contact a local disaster relief service, such as the American Red Cross or Salvation Army, if you need housing, food, or personal items.
- Call your insurance agent. Keep records of all clean-up and repair costs. Don't throw away any damaged goods until an official inventory has been taken.
- Secure personal belongings or move them to another location.
- If you are a renter, contact your landlord.
Terms To Know
- Crawling Fire - fire that spreads via low-level vegetation, like bushes
- Crown Fire - fire that "crowns," or spreads to the top branches of trees, and can spread at an incredible pace through the top of a forest
- Jumping Fire - burning branches and leaves carried by wind sometimes start distant fires; fire can "jump" over roads and rivers
- Fire Weather Watch - a watch issued by the U.S. National Weather Service to alert authorities that Red Flag conditions may develop
- Red Flag Warning - a warning issued by the U.S. National Weather Service to indicate that a fire would spread rapidly if it broke out due to low humidity, high winds, and low moisture