A new wildfire season is here. Are you prepared?

California wildfire destroys home

Much of California witnessed incredibly fast moving and unpredictable wildfires last year, flames jumping six lane freeways at times. The chance of a wildfire reaching Northstate neighborhoods could very likely happen this summer.

Cal Fire says as much as it's their job to work at preventative measures, the responsibility of preparedness falls is in the hands of the homeowners.

"We live in fire country. We're prepared. What's your plan for fire defense?" asked Cal Fire Director, Ken Pimlott at the department's Wildfire Awareness Week in Redding Wednesday.

Cal Fire's Cheryl Buliavac cautions, the new normal for wildfire season isn't coming, it's here and families need to be ready. Most families know what to put in a "go" bag: clothing, food and water for each person for three days, important documents, prescriptions, cash or travelers checks, and an extra set of keys. What is not often recognized is the likelihood of a loss of power and cell service.

A tragic eye-opener to officials and homeowners came during the 2017 October wildfires when people were trapped in their garages. Most homeowners have never had to manually open their garage door.

"That turned out to be a significant factor in many of the fatalities over the fires in the last few summers," Buliavac stated.

"Homeowners have very little time to think about these things in fast moving fires," Pimlott advises homeowners to practice things like manually opening your garage door in order to avoid a state of panic when it's time to evacuate. "We've seen how there was such short notice for homeowners. Many of them, just ahead of the fire."

But with ever changing fire behavior, what do you do in a situation where you can't leave? Buliavac says to stay calm but utilize these steps:

- Get all of your family members together, including pets, and gather to the center of your home

- Call 9-1-1, let them know your situation

- Make sure all the doors and windows are closed but unlocked so emergency responders can get to you.

- Cover any cracks where air can come through with duct tape, a heavy blanket or both to limit smokey air from seeping in

- Open light curtains that can catch on fire easily, but keep heavy curtains and blinds shut.

- Disconnect any fuel lines in your home

Buliavac says this situation is the worst case scenario and people should use their good judgement. Evacuate early the moment you start to feel threatened. She also emphasizes to have a plan for where to meet up in case someone gets separated.

"Part of preparedness is letting others know what their plan is. Let your family members know what the meeting place is, what route you plan to take. It gets very difficult when there is an emergency and a lot of 911 calls are coming in for people that need emergency responders immediately and then people are calling, concerned about loved ones just because communication hasn't been made."

Paying very close attention to local weather conditions and alerts may make all the difference in getting your family out before the fire.

You can register for your local alert system here.

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