Wildfires: Before, During & After

A large wild fire in a heavily forested community

Wildfires are common usually  between May and September — earlier in some parts of Canada — and can cause extensive damage and put lives in danger. The best way to protect yourself and your family in case of a wildfire is to follow these steps:
  • Stay informed: Monitor weather, listen to local authorities and prepare to evacuate. 
  • Keep your vehicle fueled.
  • Follow instructions to evacuate, bring your emergency kit.
  • Only re-enter your home when instructed by officials and community leaders.

Before

  • The key to staying safe is to prepare and to have an emergency plan in place.
  • Tune in to the radio or local news channels, and/or follow your local news outlet and emergency officials on social media for possible wildfire alerts.

Find out if you live in an area where wildfires could potentially happen and learn more about the local alerts and evacuation procedures.
 
The Government of Canada’s Canadian Wildland Fire Information System is a fire management information system that monitors fire danger conditions across Canada. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it includes an interactive fire map and up-to-date reports on the fire situation across Canada.

Know the difference between an evacuation alert and an evacuation order:

  • An Evacuation Order means you are at risk and should evacuate the area immediately. Follow the routes specified by officials and move away from the fire. 
  • An Evacuation Alert means that you should be ready to leave on short notice.
  • Visit FireSmart Canada for information and to complete an assessment on how to protect your home and property.
  • Learn fire safety techniques and teach them to members of your family.
  • Keep your vehicle fueled, determine two routes out of your neighbourhood and practice your evacuation plan frequently. 
  • If you are on a farm/ranch, leaving livestock unsheltered is preferable, or if time and personal safety permits, evacuation from the danger zone should be considered. ​
  • Talk with your family and neighbours about what you would do during a wildfire. Identify a safe place to gather.
  • Have practice drills with your family, so you know what to do and are prepared.
  • Make a personalized emergency kit. You should be prepared to be self-sustaining for at least three days.
  • If you have already dipped into your emergency kit and food supply while staying at home, consider safely getting the supplies to replenish it following your local public health authorities’ guidelines for leaving your residence.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic also add hygiene items such as hand sanitizer and non-medical masks to your kit to keep your family safe during an evacuation.

During

  • Be prepared to evacuate at any time. If told to evacuate, do so.
  • Monitor local radio stations for up-to-date information on the fire and possible road closures.
  • Park your car, positioned forward out of the driveway. Keep car windows closed and have your valuables ready to be packed in your car should you need to evacuate. 
  • If you do not evacuate, close all windows and doors in the house to reduce smoke and debris entering your home. Follow instructions on how to minimize fire damage. 
  • Move all combustibles away from the house, including firewood and lawn furniture. Move any propane barbeques into the open, away from structures.

After

 
  • Get a copy of the Red Cross Guide to Wildfire Recovery for information on what to do after you have experienced a fire in your home. 
  • Continue to take precautions and listen to and follow directions from local authorities.
  • Only re-enter your home if you are authorized by officials to do so.
  • Contact your local government office for help in finding temporary housing if you cannot stay in your home due to fire damage.
  • Check with local authorities to see if you are eligible for disaster financial assistance. 
  • Use caution when entering burned areas because there may still be hazards, including hot spots, which can flare up without warning.
  • Ensure your food and water is safe. Discard any food that may have been exposed to heat, smoke or soot and do not use water that may be contaminated. 
  • Take an inventory and photos of ruined furniture, appliances, books, etc. for insurance purposes and keep all receipts related to living expenses, repairs, etc.
  • Contact your insurance company, if necessary. 
  • Wear protective gear, including boots, safety glasses and rubber gloves when cleaning up.
  • Household items often take several cleanings to be rid of smoke odours, soot and stains. 
  • Experiencing a disaster is challenging enough, but during the COVID-19 pandemic it can feel even more difficult. The Red Cross has many resources available to help you navigate these challenging times. You can also find mental and emotional wellbeing resources on the Public Health Agency of Canada, or any provincial/territorial health authority website.

After a Disaster

Recovering after a disaster can be overwhelming. Check out what resources the Red Cross has to offer.

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Get an Emergency Kit

Getting or making a kit is the final step in being ready for any emergency. Find out what you need to put in it.

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