Wildfires

A wildfire is a fire that burns out of control in a natural area, like a forest, grassland, or prairie. Wildfires can start from natural causes, such as lightening, but they are usually caused by humans, such as campers or hikers who did not put out their campfire properly. Wildfires spread quickly, burning brush, trees, and homes in its path. They can also affect natural resources (such as soil, animals, forests), destroy homes, and put people’s lives in danger.

As the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic coincides with natural disasters that remain a risk throughout the year, such as wildfires, remember to follow the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and your state and local authorities to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19.

Words to know!

Wildfires can happen anywhere, anytime. The chance of wildfires happening is higher when there is little or no rainfall. This makes bushes, grass and trees dry and easier to burn. High winds can spread wildfires. Your community may have a designated wildfire season when the risk is particularly high.

Living through environmental disasters, like a wildfire, can be more complicated when we are also experiencing a pandemic like COVID-19. It is important to be prepared and to understand how COVID-19 might affect you and your family.
 
COVID-19 may affect different people in different ways. By practicing good health habits, like washing your hands and social distancing, you can lower your chances of getting sick, both from COVID-19 and in general. 

Before

  • Build an emergency kit that includes two masks that cover your mouth and nose in case you have to evacuate to a public cleaner air shelter or cleaner air space.  
  • Make a family communications plan.
  • Know your evacuation route and practice going to these places while following the latest social and physical distancing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and your state and local authorities.
  • Make sure your family has smoke alarms on every level of your home, especially in bedrooms. Ask your parents to check them every month and to change the batteries every year.
  • If you don’t have a smoke alarm, check with your local fire department about getting a free one.
  • Help your parents to rake the lawn and get rid of leaves and twigs. These can catch fire if a wildfire is near your home. Never play with matches. You could accidentally start a fire.

During

  • Listen to emergency officials
  • Follow local emergency officials’ orders. If they say to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • If you do evacuate, ask your parent or guardian to bring supplies that can help you protect yourself and your family from COVID-19, such as hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol, cleaning products, and two masks for each member of the family who can wear one. Masks should not be worn by children under 2 years old, people who have trouble breathing, and people who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove.
  • If you see a wildfire, call 9-1-1. You may be the first person to have spotted it!
  • If trapped, call 9-1-1.
  • If you are having trouble breathing, let your parents know right away, 
  • Try to keep your hands out of your mouth, nose, and eyes.

After

  • Call 9-1-1 and seek help immediately if you or someone you are with has been burned. Cool and cover burns to reduce the chance of further injury or infection.
  • If you are at home, keep a “fire watch.” That means, look for smoke or sparks throughout the house. If you see anything, tell a grown-up immediately!
  • If you are at home, remind your parents to clean surfaces that are frequently touched. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, phones, toilets, countertops, and faucets. 
  • If you have evacuated, do not go home until safety officials say it’s okay. Stay away from downed or dangling power lines. They could electrocute you.
  • If you and your family must stay at a shelter or public facility, take steps to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Maintain a distance of at least six feet, or about two adult arm lengths, between you and people who are not part of your household. Don’t get into crowds or groups.
  • Wear a mask while at the shelter. If you can, wash your mask regularly. Don’t wear a mask if you have trouble breathing. Masks should not be worn by children under 2 years old, people who have trouble breathing, and people who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove. 
  • Avoid walking on hot/burning surfaces. After a fire, the ground may contain heat pockets or hidden embers. Stay away. They could burn you or spark another fire.
  • If you have animals, watch them closely and keep them under your control. Note that hidden embers and hot spots could burn their paws or hooves.
  • Do not use water from the faucet unless emergency officials say it’s okay.
  • Burned areas should be monitored for at least 12 hours to make sure the fire is out and danger has past.
  • Leave wildfire clean-up activities to adults. Children should not help with clean-up efforts.
  • Continue taking steps to protect yourself from COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, such as washing your hands often and cleaning commonly touched surfaces. 
  • Throw away food exposed to heat, smoke, or soot. When in doubt, throw it out.
  • Use text or social media to communicate with your family and friends. 
  • Know that it’s normal to be worried or scared. Doctors are working hard to help anyone who is feeling sick. If you are concerned, talk to an adult you trust. Remember that you can help to stop the spread of disease by practicing healthy habits, like washing your hands regularly and covering your coughs and sneezes.

Getting Sick

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes! Use a tissue or cough or sneeze into your elbow. If you do use a tissue, throw it in the trash right away. 
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice while you wash your hands. Make sure to wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, using the bathroom, and eating or making food. 
  • If you can’t find soap and water to wash your hands, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. 
  • Stay away from people who are coughing, sneezing, or sick.
  • Remind your parents to clean surfaces that are touched frequently, like desks, doorknobs, light switches, and remote controls with household products. Remember that young children should not use disinfectants. 
  • Tell your parents if you feel sick.

Did you know?

The three elements needed to create and keep a fire burning are heat, fuel, and oxygen, also known as the fire triangle.

Incident Meteorologists (IMETs) are a group of around 70 specially-trained weather experts with the National Weather Service. They work closely with wildfire responders at wildfire sites to monitor, analyze, and report fire and weather conditions. Their forecasts help firefighters plan operations when dealing with the unpredictable nature of fire. This helps keep emergency responders safe.

Explore Other Hazards

Last Updated: 02/18/2021