How to prepare for the next wildfire

July 18, 2004

Even though North Lake Tahoe Fire protection District Chief Jim Linardos said that the chances of the Waterfall Fire reaching Incline Village are remote, there are resources available and things that can be done to prepare you and your family in case the next wildfire hits town.
When a wildfire is approaching, it is too late to decide what necessary precautions to take to prevent it from consuming your home. Pre-planning, knowing an evacuation procedure, practicing defensible space, creating a family disaster plan and family disaster kit are just a few things you can do before a wildfire threatens.

If you are advised that a wildfire is imminent in your area, listen to your radio, television or other media outlets including the Incline Advisory website at or the Incline Community Hotline at 775/833-5555 for reports and evacuation information and follow the instructions of local officials.

You may be notified by reverse 911, loudspeaker or door to door by a member of the sheriff's office, search and rescue or fire district personnel.
In preparation for q quick departure (you may have less than one hour between notification and mandatory departure) be sure to:

• Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape.
• Shut doors and roll up windows. Leave the key in the ignition.
• Close garage windows and doors, but leave them unlocked.
• Disconnect automatic garage door openers. Confine pets to one room.
• Make plans to care for your pets in case you must evacuate. Arrange temporary housing at a friend or relative's home outside the threatened area.
If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
• Wear protective clothing, sturdy shoes, cotton or wool clothing, long pants and long sleeved shirt and be sure to bring gloves and a handkerchief to protect your face.
• Take a disaster supplies kit (see box for details) and lock your home up.
• Make sure to tell someone when you left and where you are going.
• Choose a route away from fire hazards and follow any instructions of local officials.
If you are sure you have some time before having to evacuate your home, listed below are some things you can do inside and outside of your home:
• Close windows, vents, doors, blinds or non-combustible window coverings and heavy drapes. Remove lightweight curtains.
• Shut off gas at the meter. Turn off pilot lights.
• Open fireplace damper and close fireplace screens.
• Move flammable furniture into the center of the home away from windows and sliding-glass doors.
• Turn on a light in each room to increase the visibility of your home in heavy smoke.
• Seal attic and ground vents with pre-cut plywood or commercial seals.
• Turn off propane tanks and place combustible patio furniture inside.
• Place combustible patio furniture inside and set up portable gasoline-powered pump.
• Place lawn sprinklers on the roof and near any above ground fuel tanks. Wet the roof.
• Wet or remove shrubs within 15 feet of the home.
• Gather fire tools.

It is also a good idea to videotape the contents of your home - room by room, narrating all items, especially major appliances and anything that has a serial number. Place a copy of this video in your safe deposit box.

Wildfire and other types of disasters such as flood, earthquake, hazardous materials spill and severe winter storms can strike quickly and without much warning.
By preparing in advance and working together, your family will be able to better deal with unexpected emergencies.

To get started on your family disaster plan begin by contacting your local emergency management (i.e. Washoe County Sheriffs Office, the Fire District, Washoe County Dept. of Emergency Management or local American Red Cross chapter). See related item in box.
Find out about the hazards in your community and ask how you would be warned.
Find out how to prepare for each type of disaster.

Some other steps you can take to better handle an emergency situation are to:
• Post emergency telephone numbers by every phone.
• Show responsible family members how and when to shut of water, gas and electricity at main switches.
• Contact your local fire department to learn about home fire hazards.
• Learn first aid and CPR.
These precautionary steps are designed to help citizens be as prepared as possible for emergency situations.
This information has been a collaborative effort between the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District ( Washoe County Sheriffs Office (, American Red Cross (, Federal Emergency Management Agency ( or the United States Fire Administration (
Contact the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District for more information on the fire by calling the community hotline extension at (775) 833-5555 or check the community website at