Wildfire Evacuation Guide

Evacuations save lives and allow responding personnel to focus on the emergency at hand. Please evacuate promptly when requested! Your life is at stake!

Alert Marin

If a wildfire requires evacuation in Marin and time allows, emergency managers will use the "Alert Marin" system to send out notifications by telephone, cellular, VOIP, and text message.  If you live, work or go to school in Marin County and are 18 and over, you may register your cell phone or VoIP (voice over internet protocol) phone to receive emergency alerts sent by call, text, email, or smartphone application from the County of Marin.

Listed and unlisted/blocked Marin County landline phone numbers are already included in the Alert Marin emergency notification system.  Cell phone and VoIP numbers are not included and will require your registration in our Self-Registration Portal.

Register Your Cell Phone or VOIP for Alert Marin TODAY!

The Law

California law authorizes officers to restrict access to any area where a menace to public health or safety exists due to a calamity such as flood, storm, fire, earthquake, explosion, accident or other disaster. Refusal to comply is a misdemeanor. (Penal Code 409.5)

Evacuation Orders

The terms Voluntary and Mandatory are used to describe evacuation orders. However, local jurisdictions may use other terminology such as Precautionary and Immediate Threat. These terms are used to alert you to the significance of the danger. All evacuation instructions provided by officials should be followed immediately for your safety.

Long Before a Fire Threatens

Prepare an Evacuation Checklist and Organize:

  • Critical medications
  • Important personal papers, photos.
  • Essential valuables.
  • Pet and livestock transport, limited amount of pet food.
  • Change of clothing, toiletries.
  • Cell phone.
  • Critical papers and effects in a fire-proof safe.
  • An Evacuation Route Map with at least two routes.*
  • Drive your planned route of escape before an actual emergency.*

*During an evacuation, law enforcement/ emergency personnel may determine your route.

If Evacuation is a Possibility

  • Evacuate earlyLocate your Evacuation Checklist and place the items in your vehicle.
  • Park your vehicle facing outward and carry your car keys with you.
  • Locate your pets and keep them nearby.
  • Prepare farm animals for transport.
  • Place connected garden hoses and buckets full of water around the house.
  • Move propane BBQ appliances away from structures.
  • Cover-up. Wear long pants, long sleeve shirt, heavy shoes/boots, cap, use a dry-bandana for face cover, wear goggles or glasses. 100% cotton or wool is preferable to synthetic fabrics.
  • Leave lights on in the house and unlock all doors.
  • Leave windows closed, turn air conditioning and fans off.

The Evacuation Process

Officials will determine the areas to be evacuated and the routes to use depending upon the fire’s location, behavior, winds, terrain, etc.  Law enforcement agencies are typically responsible for enforcing an evacuation order.  Follow their directions or the directions of  promptly.

When time allows, emergency managers will attempt to advise you of potential evacuations as early as possible.  You must take the initiative to stay informed and aware.  Listen to your radio or TV for announcements from law enforcement and emergency personnel.  Be sure to have signed up for the Alert Marin system BEFORE a fire threatens you.

You may be directed to temporary assembly areas to await transfer to a safe location.

ready set go wildfire action plan international association of fire chiefs

Fire Roads

Fire roads (o other unpaved roads leading to open spaces) are NEVER safe or viable evacuation routes during wildfires!  Stay on pavement and evacuate towards major roads and away from the fire, unless instructed otherwise by emergency personnel.

During wildfires, always follow the instructions of law enforcement officers or firefighters.  

Unless instructed otherwise, you should ALWAYS plan to evacuate downhill towards major roads and way from the fire.

If You Become Trapped

Wildfires are notoriously unpredictable and even the best laid plans can sometimes go amiss. This is why it is crucial to be prepared and evacuate as early as possible.

If you do find yourself trapped by a wildfire, there are a few things you can do to decrease risk and injury and increase your chances of survival. It will be very important to remain calm and keep everyone together. The roar of a wildfire can be extremely loud and the house will get very hot and smoky as the fire front passes, so emotionally you must be prepared to deal with the horrific sound and the strong natural urge to flee the house.

The most important thing to do is to choose the place from those available to you that is best able to withstand the flaming front of the fire.  This may not be your home, but an outbuilding, shop, or even your car.  The structure should have:

  • A “Class-A,” non-combustible roof.
  • Non-combustible siding or 30 feet or more clearing of vegetation from the siding.
  • Eave areas and areas under decks boxed in or totally enclosed or cleaned of flammable debris.
  • ¼ inch screened attic, foundation, and eave vents.
  • Dual pane or tempered glass windows.

INSIDE THE HOME

  • To survive, you must stay inside the house until the fire front passes. Although it will be very hot in the house, it can be four to five times hotter outside.
  • Plan for the loss of power and have water stored by filling the sinks and tubs along with buckets inside your house to put out burning embers or small fires.
  • Have your fire extinguishers out and in convenient locations.
  • Shelter in a room at the opposite end of your home from where the fire is approaching; making sure you have two possible exit routes.
  • Close all windows and doors. If your garage door operates on electricity, disconnect the unit and operate the door manually.
  • Close metal Venetian blinds.
  • Remove light curtains and other easily combustible materials from windows or draw them well past the perimeter of the window. This will prevent radiant heat from catching the window coverings on fire.
  • Move furniture away from windows and sliding glass doors to prevent radiant heat from catching the furniture on fire.
  • Shut off all attic fans, whole house fans, swamp coolers and interior fans to keep smoke and ash from being drawn into house.
  • Wet, or remove, swamp cooler pads to prevent them from catching on fire.
  • Bring pets inside and consider placing in pet carriers to control their movement in the house as the roar of the fire comes.
  • Put livestock and horses in an area where fuels have been removed or in an irrigated pasture.
  • Leave exterior and interior lights on for as long as you have power. This helps fire fighters to find your house in the dense smoke during a fire.

OUTSIDE THE HOME

  • Plan for the loss of power and have water stored to put out burning embers or small fires after the fire front has passed your house.
  • Close all exterior doors and windows and leave them unlocked.
  • Close or cover outside attic, eave, and basement vents to prevent ember from entering your house.
  • Move wheeled vehicle or equipment away from structures.
  • Shut off natural gas and propane unless needed for running a generator.
  • Connect water hoses and lay them out for best use where they will not get burned during the fire front passing.
  • If you have a wooden fence that connects to the exterior of your home, prevent flames from spreading from the fence to your house by propping open the gate.
  • Move anything that can easily ignite at least 30 feet away from the exterior of your home, including patio furniture and cushions, cloth awnings, barbecues, portable propane tanks, trash cans without lids, and firewood.
  • Strategically place garden sprinklers on your home where it is vulnerable to ignition, such as wooden stairs & decking, and turn them on.

IF YOU ARE TRAPPED IN YOUR VEHICLE

  • A structure offers more protection than a car so if there is a building nearby get inside it.
  • If there is no building, park and stay in your car, where it is safer than being out in the open where you could be directly exposure to flames and radiant heat.
  • Find a safe place to park that has little or no vegetation.
  • Turn on headlights and emergency flashers to make your car more visible during heavy smoke.
  • Close all windows and doors, shut off all air vents, and turn off the air conditioner.
  • Get below the windows under blankets, preferably wool, and lie on the floor to shelter yourself from the intense radiant heat.
  • Stay in the vehicle, as it will provide you with some insulation from the heat.
  • Wait until the fire front passes and temperature has dropped outside then get out and into a safe area that has already burned.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

  • If it is safe to leave, do so. Seek immediate medical attention if necessary.
  • Check the roof and extinguish any sparks or embers.
  • Check inside the attic for hidden burning embers.  Extinguish any fires with remaining water from your pool, sinks, toilet tanks, garbage cans or fire extinguisher.
  • Keep doors and windows closed, but unlocked.  This will keep embers out, but make it easier for fiefighters to rescue you or your pets if needed.
  • Check the yard for burning woodpiles, trees, fences posts, and other material.
  • Continue monitoring your home for signs of smoke or embers for the next 24 to 48 hours.

Returning Home

Fire officials will determine when it is safe for you to return to your home. This will be done as soon as possible considering safety and accessibility.

When you return home:

  • Be alert for downed power lines and other hazards
  • Check propane tanks, regulators, and lines before turning gas on
  • Check your residence carefully for hidden embers or smoldering fires

FIRESafe MARIN   |   P.O. Box 2831  |   San Anselmo, CA 94979   |   (415) 570-4FSM {4376}   |   info@firesafemarin.org

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