Essential Guide for Wildfire Evacuation Safety | CAL FIRE
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Preparing for wildfire evacuation in California

The Go! Evacuation Guide is your vital resource for preparing and executing evacuation procedures during wildfire emergencies. It offers crucial information on pre-evacuation steps, handling power outages, evacuation methods, animal safety, and what to do if trapped.

Explore pre-evacuation actions below:

Pre-evacuation preparation steps
Power outage information
Evacuation procedures
Animal evacuation
Guidance if trapped

Pre-evacuation steps to take

How to protect your home before evacuating

If you have time before evacuating, follow these steps to give your home the best chance of surviving the wildfire:

Inside the house

  • Pack your ‘Go Bag’ or Emergency Kit, ready to grab
  • Check that your Wildfire Action Plan is up-to-date
  • Know your community’s emergency plan, evacuation routes, and destinations
  • Close all windows and doors but leave them unlocked
  • Take down flammable window treatments like shades and curtains, and close metal shutters
  • Clear away light curtains
  • Move anything that burns easily to the middle of rooms, away from windows and doors
  • Turn off the gas at the meter and pilot lights
  • Leave lights on for firefighters to see your house in smoke
  • Switch off the air conditioning

Outside the house

  • Bring in flammable items from outside, like patio furniture, toys, doormats, and trash bins. Alternatively, place them in your pool
  • Shut off propane tanks
  • Move grills and other propane BBQ appliances away from the house
  • Attach garden hoses to outside taps for firefighter use and fill buckets with water to scatter around
  • Don’t leave sprinklers or water running as it can lower critical water pressure.
  • Keep exterior lights on to make your home visible in smoky or dark conditions.
  • Put your emergency kit in your car
  • Park your car in the driveway, facing outwards, loaded and ready, with all doors and windows shut
  • Have a ladder handy for firefighter roof access
  • Seal attic and ground vents with plywood or commercial seals
  • Keep an eye on the fire situation and don’t wait for an evacuation order if you feel at risk
  • Check with neighbors to ensure they’re also prepared


  • Keep pets close and ready to go
  • Plan for farm animal evacuation early, arranging transport and safe locations

Evacuation steps

When urgent evacuation is necessary, these steps will guide you to leave safely and quickly.

Go over your Evacuation Plan Checklist often. Make sure it includes where to meet, who to call, and how to leave safely. Keep it updated so you’re always ready to move fast.

Make sure you monitor wildfires in your area and know your community’s emergency response plan, evacuation orders, and evacuation centers.

Keep your Emergency Supply Kit in your car. It should include things like water, snacks, a first aid kit, and papers you need. This way, you’re always set to leave in a hurry.

Dress to protect yourself in a wildfire. Wear clothes that cover your skin (100% cotton is best), like long pants and tops, and tough shoes. This helps guard you against heat and sparks.

Don’t forget about your pets. Make a plan for their safety. Have carriers, food, and water ready so they can leave quickly and safely with you.

How to prepare for power outages during wildfires

When wildfires strike, power outages are common. Along with the pre-evacuation steps above, here’s what you need to know to stay safe and prepared. 

  • Learn manual operation: Be able to open garage doors or gates without power. 
  • Understand utility controls: Get to know your home’s utility boxes for electricity, water, and gas and how to safely manage them. 
  • Build an Emergency Supply Kit: Pack essentials like water, coolers, non-perishable food, manual can-opener, current medications, battery-operated radio, durable flashlights, extra batteries, and phone chargers. 
  • Keep vehicles ready: Maintain at least half a tank of gas in your vehicle. 
  • Create a safety plan: Keep shoes near your bed in case you need to evacuate during the night and have a clear plan for your family and pets during emergencies. 
  • Generator use & safety: Understand your generator’s safety guidelines. Know where to connect it, what electrical cords to use, and the electrical load rating. Improper installation may put yourself or utility workers at risk for electrocution. 
  • Stay connected: Always have a charged cell phone for emergencies and keep up with the latest information from CAL FIRE and local authorities. 

What to do if the power goes out

In the event of a power outage, especially during wildfire threats, it’s important to stay calm and follow these simple steps:

  • Keep fridge & freezer shut: This helps preserve food longer.
  • Turn off gas & combustibles: Shut off gas lines and items like propane tanks.
  • Avoid power lines: Stay at least 10 feet away from overhead lines and electrical equipment. Never touch them.
  • Stay updated: Use a battery-powered radio or your cellphone for wildfire updates.

For more information and safety guidelines, check out these resources:

About public safety power shutoff (PSPS) events

A PSPS is when electric companies turn off power on purpose. This usually happens during very dry and windy weather to help prevent wildfires. The idea is to stop sparks from power lines or electrical equipment from starting a fire.

For more info on PSPS events in California, especially from major electric companies, check out these resources:

When to evacuate during a wildfire

If fire officials suggest evacuating, it’s best to leave right away. This helps you avoid danger and keeps roads clear for firefighters. In big wildfires, there’s no time for door-to-door warnings, so if you’re told to go, do it fast to stay safe.
Following evacuation orders:

  • Stay informed: You’ll be advised of potential evacuations as early as possible. Listen to local radio or TV for updates from authorities.
  • Officials decide: Fire officials decide when and where to evacuate based on the fire, wind, and terrain.
  • Law enforcement role: Police enforce evacuation orders. Follow their directions right away.
  • “Order” & “warning”: These terms alert you to the significance of the danger. Other terms like “precautionary” and “immediate threat” might be used too.
  • Act fast: In severe wildfires, there’s no time to waste. If advised to leave, do so without delay.
  • Don’t wait for orders: It’s safer to leave before a mandatory order is issued.
  • Stay alert: You may be directed to temporary assembly areas to await transfer to a safe location.
  • Help firefighters: Don’t return home until fire officials notify you that it’s safe to do so.

Returning home safely

Being aware of hazards is crucial when you return home:

  • Wait for clearance: Don’t go home until it’s declared safe.
  • Watch for dangers: Look out for things like downed power lines.
  • Check gas lines: Be cautious with propane tanks and gas lines.
  • Inspect for fire hazards: Search for any hidden embers or fires.

Animal Safety

Don’t forget your pets and livestock. With some advanced planning you can increase their chances of surviving a wildfire.

  • Create defensible space: Clear space around barns and pastures like you do for your home.
  • Evacuation plan: Know where to take animals in an emergency. Contact local fairgrounds, stockyards, or friends for temporary shelter.
  • Transport arrangements: If you don’t have a trailer, arrange transport with companies or neighbors in advance.
  • Essential documents: Keep animals’ medical records, registration papers, and photos, along with your disaster kit.
  • Emergency animal care: If leaving animals behind, leave them in a cleared area with enough hay for 48-72 hours. Don’t rely on automatic watering systems.

  • Hay, feed, and water for 3 days
  • Non-nylon leads, halters
  • First aid items, wire cutters, sharp knife
  • Hoof pick, leg wraps, shovel
  • Water buckets, trash barrel with lid
  • Portable radio, extra batteries, flashlights

Please note: Firefighters focus on controlling wildfires and may not evacuate livestock. They might cut fences or open gates for trapped animals.

  • Advance planning: Decide where to take or leave pets. Arrange for a neighbor to help if you’re away.
  • Identification: Ensure pets wear collars with ID, rabies, and license tags.
  • Transportation: Have a pet carrier for each animal. Cover cages to reduce fear.
  • Record keeping: Store vaccination records, vet contacts, ownership proof, and current pet photos with your disaster kit.

  • Carrier for each pet
  • 2-week food and water supply
  • Non-spill bowls, pet first-aid kit
  • Medications, dosing instructions
  • Litter box, litter, waste disposal bags
  • Paper towels, disinfectants
  • Leashes, collars, harnesses
  • Blankets, toys, treats, newspaper

  • Take them in: Leave pets indoors, not chained outside.
  • Secure room: Use a safe room without windows and good ventilation.
  • Food & water: Leave dry food and fresh water in non-spill containers. Consider a dripping faucet or bathtub water.

Tips if trapped

Here’s what to do whether you’re in your vehicle, outside, or at home, focusing on calm and quick actions for your safety. 

  • Stay calm
  • Park in an area clear of vegetation
  • Close all vehicle windows and vents
  • Cover up with a wool blanket or jacket
  • Lie on the vehicle floor
  • Use your cell phone to call 911

  • Stay calm
  • Move to a clear area, like a ditch or flat ground
  • Lie face down and cover your body
  • Use your cell phone to call 911

  • Stay calm
  • Gather your family
  • Use your cell phone to call 911
  • Fill sinks and tubs with cold water
  • Keep doors and windows closed but unlocked
  • Stay inside, away from outside walls and windows