Wildfire Safety Resources

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Wildfire Safety Resources

Information & Tips Everyone Should Know

Robins Cloud LLP is considered a nationwide leader in wildfire lawsuits and litigation. Throughout the years, we have provided legal support and representation for victims of wildfires started by corporate and government negligence, with a focus on California wildfire lawsuits. With offices in California, we have seen the wildfire devastation firsthand, as well as secondhand through our clients. That is why we have compiled important wildfire safety resources, information, and tips here, which we hope will help keep the people of our communities safe*.

What Causes Wildfires?

Wildfires are natural disasters that can occur in dry, warm climates, especially in regions prone to strong winds and droughts that turn plant life into tinder. It is believed that many naturally occurring wildfires are caused by lightning strikes in remote areas. However, some of the worst wildfires in recent records have been linked directly to utility company negligence, such as when a poorly maintained powerline falls in the forest and sparks an inferno.

Due to climate change and urban development in rural areas, the risk of wildfires has increased in many parts of the country, including Northern California. With longer, hotter summers each year, there are more opportunities for something to go wrong, triggering a wildfire that reaches a town within days or even hours.

Catastrophic Consequences of Wildfires

Wildfires are a natural catastrophe. When unchallenged, or even with the best efforts of brave firefighters, even a small wildfire can grow into an enormous blaze that causes unpredictable damage.

The devastating consequences of a wildfire can include:

  • Loss of life: A swift-moving wildfire that is carried by strong gusts of wind can surround a town in a matter of hours or less. The 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County caused 85 fatalities, the most ever recorded in a California wildfire.
  • Property destruction: Acreage that has been scorched by a wildfire can take years or decades to recover and become hospitable or agriculturally usable again. Wildfires that rush over towns can destroy hundreds or thousands of structures, leaving that many more people displaced when it is over.
  • Power outages: Wildfires can trigger long-lasting and widespread power outages and rolling blackouts if they are caused by an electrical system defect or burn near powerlines that must be shut down.

Wildfire Prevention

Firefighters are on the frontlines when a wildfire strikes. But they are not alone. It is up to all of us to help prevent wildfires, especially when we are camping or staying near a rural or forested area.

Three important wildfire prevention tips are:

  1. Campfire responsibility: Campers should always light, maintain, and extinguish campfires responsibly. Do not light a campfire where it is not permitted by local forestry authorities. When extinguishing a campfire, thoroughness is critical. Use water, sand, or dirt to smother the flames, and continue using it as needed. If the burnt material is too hot to touch, then it is hot enough to start a wildfire.
  2. Avoid high winds: You should never burn any debris or start a campfire where it is windy. A gust of wind can carry ash and embers out of a campfire and start a wildfire nearby or miles away. If you are not sure if there will be high winds where you will be camping, then you should first contact local forestry authorities for more information.
  3. Safe property maintenance: In particularly dry areas, brushfires and wildfires can start in unexpected ways, such as when maintaining your property with various yard equipment. For example, a defective lawnmower can spark and ignite nearby brush. If you live in such an area, then you should always be mindful when maintaining your lawn and property. Keep a shovel and fire extinguisher handy.

Wildfire Preparation

All the best prevention methods can never guarantee that a wildfire will not start in your area. It is important to know how to prepare for a wildfire, just in case.

Three simple steps you can take right now to prepare for a wildfire are:

  1. Get wildfire alerts: Most regions with a history of wildfires now have wildfire alert systems that notify locals of a growing or approaching wildfire. For example, in California, CAL FIRE has a “Ready for Wildfire” app that can be downloaded on a smartphone. The app will send emergency push notifications to alert the user of nearby wildfires.
  2. Create a wildfire go-bag: Wildfires can get out of hand surprisingly fast, and evacuation orders can be issued suddenly. You need to be prepared to leave your home with necessities at a moment’s notice, so you should prepare a wildfire go-bag now. In this emergency kit, you should include face masks, food and water for each person and pet (lasting for at least three days), an evacuation route map, necessary medications, spare money and clothing, basic first aid items, a hand-crank flashlight/radio, a phone charger, and important documents or belongings that you cannot leave behind.
  3. Draw an evacuation route: Some of the largest losses of life to wildfires in recent history happened due to poorly maintained evacuation routes that crowded too many cars into one place. You should plan an evacuation route with your household that safely removes you from where a wildfire would most likely begin, such as a nearby forested area. Be mindful that you might have to change your evacuation route when a wildfire begins based on the instructions of evacuation and emergency personnel. You should listen to disaster response personnel when evacuating because they will be acting under the most current information about the wildfire.

Preparing Your Home for a Wildfire

While preparing your household for a wildfire, you should prepare your home for it, too. There are several ways that you can increase your home’s chances of withstanding the heat of a wildfire, which could preserve your valuable property within. Keep in mind that you should not stay in your home as a wildfire approaches if you have been ordered to evacuate. It is better to leave the area than to stay in your home and hope that your preparations have been enough to keep you safe, no matter how thorough you might have been.

You can prepare your home for a wildfire by:

  • Installing fire-resistant materials: Construction materials have made impressive advances in recent years. Many parts of your home can likely be upgraded to fire-resistant materials, like roofing, siding, shutters, and windows. Talk to a contractor about what upgrades would be best for your home.
  • Seal miscellaneous openings: Embers will drift into any opening in your home that is available. Small ports like doggy doors or attic windows can let embers, smoke, and fumes inside your home when a wildfire is nearby. Make sure that you have a plan to seal these openings in a hurry if needed.
  • Clear clutter and debris: Random piles of old clutter, debris, and plant life around your property will be sources of kindling for a passing wildfire. A little ember could ignite them into a big flame. Regularly maintain your yard and property to clear away such piles of clutter.
  • Trim low trees: You should trim any tree branches that are within 15 feet of the ground, which is about the average height of a wall of wildfire. By removing lower branches, you can reduce the risk that the entire tree catches on fire and acts as more fuel for the flames.
  • Consider watering your property: If a wildfire is in the area, you can call your local fire department’s non-emergency phone number and ask if you should water your property to help slow the fire or deter embers from sparking. You might be told not to water your property because the firefighters need all available water sources and reservoirs.
  • Store flammable materials: Any flammable material or liquid on your property must be safely stored and secured. If not, it could become heated in a wildfire and erupt.
  • Check your insurance policy: Have you checked your homeowner’s insurance policy lately for wildfire coverage? Review it now and see if you should update your policy based on recent life changes or expensive purchases.

What to Do When Evacuating

Evacuating as a wildfire approaches will be frightening. It is important to prepare for what you should and would do in an evacuation, so you can stay calmer if the moment ever happens.

Evacuation tips to keep in mind include:

  • Find everyone: To begin, locate everyone in your household and get them ready to immediately evacuate. Do not forget to collect all your pets and place them in secure carriers.
  • Grab your evacuation go-bag: If you have your emergency evacuation kit ready, grab it. You can do a fast double-check if you want for any extra essentials, but do not waste time.
  • Check emergency reports: Listen to or read local emergency reports about evacuation routes and other information from the disaster response personnel.
  • Follow instructions: Head to the nearest shelter as instructed by the emergency personnel. Stay tuned to emergency broadcasts or online information to follow new instructions as needed. Access to reliable information is critical during a wildfire.

When to Return Home After a Wildfire

You should not attempt to return to your property until local authorities permit you. Going home without permission can put you and emergency personnel in more danger. It might even complicate ongoing rescue efforts.

Once you are told that it is safe to go home, make your way there soon. You might be able to mitigate some property damage if you get there sooner than later. If any pets or livestock were unable to be located before you had to evacuate, you should search for them immediately. Be careful when near any damaged structures. Do not enter a building that could be at risk of collapsing. If you are unsuccessful when searching for a missing pet, then you should call local animal shelters to see if they have been found.

If your home is inhospitable after the wildfire, then you should make arrangements with friends and relatives for a place to stay while it is being repaired. Local emergency response teams like the American Red Cross might be able to direct you to a shelter or hotel that is accepting no/low-cost temporary residencies.

    Financial Concerns After a Wildfire

    The aftermath of a wildfire is emotionally devastating. If your property was badly damaged, then it can be financially destructive as well. But there might be ways to help you get your life back together without falling into debt.

    After a wildfire, you should see if you can get help through:

    Insurance coverage: In the wake of a wildfire, insurance companies will expect an influx of new claims. When using your homeowners’ insurance coverage, be thorough in documenting and describing the damage to your property. You should also be aware that insurance companies sometimes operate in “bad faith,” which means to intentionally mishandle a claim in an attempt to save money. If you have any concerns that your wildfire insurance claim is being mishandled by your insurer, then you should contact an attorney right away.

    Disaster loan assistance: Certain homeowners and business owners can qualify for disaster loan assistance after a destructive wildfire. Different loans are arranged by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), such as loans to repair physical damage or to get your small business up and running again. For more information, you can click here to visit the official FEMA website.

    Special Thanks to Firefighters Everywhere

    We want to thank brave firefighters from all around the country who help save people and property from wildfires each year. From veteran fire captains coordinating efforts and hotshots at the burning edge of a wildfire to air tanker pilots in the sky and volunteer fire crews consisting of prisoners, you are truly courageous and inspiring. Thank you so much for all you do, and we wish you all the safest days ahead!

    When to Seek Legal Counsel

    As mentioned, not all wildfires are natural. Many can be prevented, if only corporations, utility companies, and government agencies took fire dangers more seriously. If an investigation uncovers that the wildfire that damaged your property or hurt a loved one was caused by negligence, not nature, then it is time to seek legal counsel.

    Robins Cloud LLP is always standing by to hear from new and returning clients in need. We see everyone who comes to our doors for help as close friends or family. With our big-firm resources and small-firm feel, you can trust our team to stand up for you, no matter the size of the opposition.

    Call (310) 340-2898 or contact us online if you want to speak with our wildfire litigation attorneys.

    * Important Note

    Robins Cloud LLP is a nationwide law firm that helps wildfire victims seek justice and compensation. Our law firm is not an official wildfire safety organization. For wildfire safety and prevention information from government and nationwide resources, you can visit:

    Ready.gov – Wildfire Preparedness

    National Fire Protection Association – Wildfire Preparedness Tips

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Stay Safe During a Wildfire

    American Red Cross – Wildfire Safety

    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Climate Change Indicators: Wildfires

    U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service – Wildfire Incident Map

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