Wildfire bug-out bag: What to grab when you get an emergency evacuation call

A Level 2 evacuation order is in place for the area from the intersection of South Piert Road and Meals Road, south to East Hover Road, and East to the Columbia River. (Google Maps)

If we’ve learned anything these past couple of weeks, it’s that brush fires are deadly and can spread rapidly and often with little notice.

When you get an emergency evacuation call, it’s easy to panic and not know what to do. Keeping a level head and preparing before an emergency happens is key.

The website readyforfire.org offers a number of suggestions:

Be ready before fire hits

Plan with your household locations you’ll meet in case of an emergency. Have several options in case of different fire perimeters.

Department of Natural Resources’ Wildfire Action Plan: “Six P’s” to have ready in case of fire emergency

  • People and pets

  • Papers, phone numbers, important documents

  • Prescriptions, vitamins, glasses

  • Pictures and irreplaceable memorabilia

  • Personal computer hard drive and disks

  • Plastic (credit cards, ATM) and cash

Ready for Wildfire Go Bag Checklist

  • Face masks/coverings for smoke

  • Three-day supply of nonperishable food (Also pet food and water)

  • Three gallons of water per person

  • Map with evacuation routes

  • Prescriptions, special medications

  • Change of clothes

  • Extra glasses, contact lenses

  • Extra set of car keys, credit cards, cash or traveler’s checks

  • First aid kit

  • Flashlight

  • Battery-powered radio, extra batteries

  • Sanitation supplies

  • Copies of important documents

  • Priceless items

Keep a flashlight and sturdy shoes near your bed in case evacuation is ordered overnight. If time permits, it is easy to take small valuables, family photos and chargers.

What if you don’t have a go bag and evacuation is called?

Grab what you can as quickly as you can. Focus on irreplaceable items that can be easily carried, pets and absolute necessities.

When you leave your home, cover up to protect yourself. Depending on the fire’s proximity, you may have to dress in long clothing and cover exposed skin. Be mindful of smoke inhalation and keep masks on hand.

How can homeowners protect themselves from wildfire?

It’s the time of year many of our lawns are drying out, which means people need to be prepared during fire season, said Janet Pearce, a Department of Natural Resources communications manager. The big issue is wind, which can pick up a spark and create a large fire, she said. In her 35 years here, Pearce said fire season is becoming longer and more deadly.

“Our summers have gotten a lot hotter and drier and we just need to be prepared because you see it moving up the California coast, up to Oregon and now Washington,” she said. “We need to be ready.”

Take proactive steps to prevent your home from catching fire:

  • Remove leaves, vines, dead limbs and twigs from near your home: anything that could catch fire

  • Plant fire-resistant plants

  • Be cognizant of trees or bushes that abut your home: Pearce said they can dry out and pose a danger to firefighters who can’t go in to save your home

  • Remove dead branches that extend over the roof

  • Mow grass regularly

  • Place stove, fireplace and grill ashes in a metal bucket and soak in water for two days, then bury the cold ashes in soil

  • Review your homeowner’s insurance policy and update a list of your home’s contents