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Be Prepared: Evacuation Tips

Posted at 6:08 AM, Jul 16, 2021

From rural counties to larger cities, the threat of wildfires is present all across Montana. This guide is designed to help people be prepared should a wildfire come bearing down on their community.

Leave Early

Don’t wait to be told to leave if a wildfire is threatening your home. If law enforcement or fire crews are telling you to evacuate, it’s too dangerous to stay and you need to leave immediately.

  • Park your vehicle in a way that it will drive straight away from the home on the road.
  • Turn off propane tanks and move any grills away from the building.
  • Leave the lights on. This helps firefighters locate the home in smokey conditions.
  • Move any drapes or furniture away from the windows towards the center of the home
  • Place a ladder at the corner of the roof if you have one. This can be immensely helpful if fire crews need to access the roof.

What to bring

When an evacuation is issued, know that it may be days or longer before you are able to return home.

  • Notify your family and any workers on your property once you are made aware of the fire.
  • Keep pets with you as soon as you are made away of the fire in your area. Depending on the animal, it may also be a good idea to load them into a carrier in advance.
  • The American Red Cross recommends taking one gallon of water per person and pet in your home. People should also bring enough nonperishable food to last three days.
  • First aid kit, flashlight and a map with evacuation routes/fire escape routes marked.
  • An extra set of car keys, money, identification and any other important documents.
  • Personal computers, phones, hard drives and charging cables with them.
  • Any personal items that are easy to carry and can’t be replaced, such as photos and jewelry.

Prepare your property

The best thing a homeowner can do to avoid losing their home to a wildfire is to give the property a fighting chance, especially if the property is in the wildland-urban interface. The area between your home and an approaching wildland fire where the vegetation has been modified through careful selection, maintenance and some replacement improves the chances of your home surviving with little or no assistance from firefighters.

0-30 feet around your home

  • Use hard surfaces such as concrete or noncombustible rock mulch 0-5 feet around the home.
  • Use non-woody, low-growing herbaceous vegetation. Succulent plants and ground covers are good choices.
  • Store firewood or other combustible materials at least 30 feet away from your home, garage or attached deck.
  • Remove branches overhanging or touching the roof to a distance of at least 10 feet.

30-100 feet around your home or to the property line

  • Thin trees to a minimum of 10 feet between tops of trees or create vegetation groups “islands” to break up continuous fuels.
  • Remove ladder fuels, creating a separation between low-level vegetation and tree branches to keep fire from climbing up trees.
  • Remove leaf and needle debris from the yard.
  • Keep grasses and wildflowers under 8” in height.

100-200 feet around your home or to the property line

  • Create and maintain a minimum of 10 feet between the tops of trees.
  • Remove ladder fuels, creating a separation between low-level vegetation and tree branches to keep fire from climbing up trees.
  • Remove dead trees and shrubs.

Anyone that lives within a mile of a naturally vegetated area is considered in the “ember zone.” While the fire may seem far away, embers can be picked up by the wind and carried great distances to start spot fires.