Wildfire Safety Resources

With large wildfires becoming a normal summer occurrence in Oregon, it’s essential for PNW’ers to know what to do when one happens nearby.

Did you know that 90% of wildfires are caused by humans?

This is why it’s important for us to educate ourselves and each other about fire safety.

There are several places online to find active wildfire information from, as well as fire safety education.

Be sure to stay informed about wildfires and learn how to prepare yourself for wildfires before heading out on the trails this summer.

Steps To Take To Be Ready

  1. Sign up for county-level alerts and warnings
  2. Get fire + Air quality news
  3. Check AirNow fire + smoke map, InciWeb, Smoke Sense app, Oregon DEQ air quality index app, and the Oregon Department of Forestry. Any other apps + websites you use
  4. Connect with loved ones
  5. Check in with family members and friends
  6. Be ready to go
  7. Learn about evacuation routes, prep your house and gather
    your emergency supply kit
  8. Stay Informed
  9. Be checking local news, radio stations, websites, and apps

Sign Up For Alerts & Warnings

The first thing you should do is sign up for local alerts and warnings. You can do this through PublicAlerts, PGE and Pacific Power.

PGE & Pacific Power

Wildfires and winds can also impact your area’s power service. You can track and report PGE and Pacific Power wildfire outages on their websites.

PGE + Pacific Power

PublicAlerts

This sends info about how to stay safe during an emergency. It can send messages by text, email, or voice message, and available for anyone who lives, works or visits the Portland-Vancouver region. This service is free, however message and data rates (for texts/voicemails) may apply depending on your phone provider.

Something to keep in mind: each county uses a different PublicAlerts systems.

Use the website’s map or enter your address to be directed to your county’s registration site. You can sign up for multiple county systems—which is useful if you recreate in multiple counties or check on your loved ones and friends.

Water quality can also be impacted by wildfires. PublicAlerts will send a notice if there is a boil water warning in your area. You can also learn how to safely store and treat water before a wildfire emergency happens.

To sign up for PublicAlerts, click here

S-503 Fire (2021)

Wildfire Online Resources

CAL Fire

A resource that provides detailed information on how to prepare for a wildfire, evacuation steps for your family + pets, getting ready, preparing your house, what to do if you get trapped and insurance resources, and much more. The maps are for California only, but the tips and advice work anywhere in the PNW.

readyforwildfire.org

Oregon Wildfire Response & Recovery

County-level contacts + resources, wildfire maps, food pantry locations, info for renters affected by wildfires, small business owner’s navigator, homeowners insurance & wildfire info, filing a homeowners claim, public water providers, cleanup, assistance, daily briefings/updates, natural resources, personal recovery, safe recreation tips, previous wildfire stats.

Find your county’s resources here

wildfire.oregon.gov

Ready

“National public service campaign designed to educate and empower the American people to prepare for, respond to and mitigate emergencies, including natural and man-made disasters.”

Find information on many wildfire topics like… 

  • Additional resources
  • After a wildfire
  • How to prepare
  • Stay safe during wildfires

Ready.gov/wildfires

Websites For Wildfire Information

Several websites provide details about active wildfire maps and information. These websites are useful when checking up on the status of a wildfire, read news articles, and smoke + air quality.

American Red Cross

The American Red Cross provides a ton wildfire safety information on a printable document.

And other tips like…

  • Additional steps to protect your family
  • Additional steps to protect your pets and animals
  • Additional steps to protect your home
  • Additional steps for right before the fire
  • Cleaning up after a wildfire
  • How to prevent wildfires
  • What to do before, after and during wildfires

redress.org

Central Oregon Info

“The Central Oregon Fire Information website is supported by Promoting Ecosystem Resilience and Fire Adapted Communities Together, a cooperative agreement between The Nature Conservancy, USDA Forest Service and agencies of the Department of the Interior — Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife through a subaward to the Watershed Research and Training Center.”

You can receive wildfire and prescribed fire text alerts by texting “COFIRE” to 888-777

Wildfire details provided…

  • Air quality map
  • Air quality resources
  • Local fire news
  • Prescribe fire map
  • Smoke and 
  • Wildfire map

Centraloregonfire.org

InciWeb

One of the most popular websites and for good reason. It provides details of current wildfires that are easy to understand.

Wildfire details provided…

  • Cause
  • Coordinates + Location
  • Current weather
  • Date discovered
  • Incident commander
  • News articles
  • Size
  • Total personnel
  • Type

inciweb.nwgc.gov

Oregon Department of Forestry

An official site of the Oregon government that provides information not only on fires, but recreation, working forests, and forest benefits.

Fire topics and wildfire details provided are

  • Active wildfire map
  • Burning + Smoke management
  • Help after a wildfire
  • Fire information & statistics
  • Fire prevention
  • Fire restrictions + closures
  • Firefighting resources

oregon.gov/odf

Northwest Interagency Coordination Center

There is a large amount of wildfire information provided on this website and an interactive northwest fire map.

Topics on…

Daily official fire reports

  • Closures + Evacuations
  • Current status
  • Incident activity + Details
  • Location
  • Map of fire
  • Preparedness levels
  • Today’s operations
  • Weather + Fire behavior

Morning briefs

  • Activity summary + Details
  • Fire potential summary
  • Fire weather summary
  • Web links to OR & WA fire info + Agency Fire pages
  • Wildland + Fire terms
  • Smoke info
  • … and more

nwccinfo.blogpot.com

State of Oregon Fires and Hotspots Dashboard

This website provides an interactive map and information about active wildfires.

My favorite part about the site: it is constantly updating

This website provides…

  • Fires overviews
  • GOES satellite
  • NWCC 7 day significant fire potential
  • NIFC seasonal outlook

Wildfire information provided is…

  • Fire type
  • Acres burned
  • Percent contained
  • Start date
  • Fatalities
  • Injuries
  • Residences destroyed
  • Other structures destroyed

experience.arcgis.com

Wildfire Safety from Red Cross

Helpful tips on how to stay safe and much more is provided on this website.

Tips such as…

  • Before, during and after wildfires + additional steps
  • Local shelters
  • Wildfire safety checklist
  • … and much more

redcross.org

Wildfire and Weather Information Map

This site provides a lot of detailed information about current wildfire incidents, smoke forecast and wildfire related watches and warnings.

Wildfire details provided…

  • Active wildfire map with wind speeds + direction
  • Acres burned
  • Date discovered
  • Location
  • Smoke forecast
  • Thermal hot spots
    Type of fire
  • % of fire contained


arcGIS.com

Phone Apps That Track Active Wildfires

Not only should you be checking websites, but also downloading apps on your phone. This way you can check up on a wildfire status while you’re out and about.

There are several other apps besides the ones mentioned below, however these are my top 4 apps, what I use and have good reviews online.

Emergency: Alerts – Red Cross

My favorite part: set multiple monitor locations. Which is good if you recreate in multiple spots and have family and friends who live in different areas.

Features of this app are…

  • Maps
  • Preparation articles
  • Quizzes
  • Receive hazard alerts
  • Receive weather warnings
  • Safety check in

Alerts, Advisory, Warnings, Watches for…

  • Earthquake
  • Heatwave
  • High winds
  • Shelter in place
  • Tsunami
  • Wildfire
  • Wind + Wind chill
  • Winter storm
  • …and much more

Wildfire Info

I particulary enjoy this app because it provides information from CAL Fire, InciWeb, and MODIS & VIIRS satellites. There is a $2.99 yearly fee for some premium features, but the premium features are free on other apps mentioned.

Features of this app are…

  • CA highway patrol incidents maps (CA only)
  • CAL FIRE active fires map (CA only)
  • General weather lookup (premium feature)
  • InciWeb active fires
  • InciWeb incidents feed maps
  • InciWeb news articles
  • IRWIN fire perimeters map
  • MODIS & VIIRS thermal map
  • Recent wildfire news articles
  • Situation reports
  • User-submitted fire map
  • Wildfire-related twitter map
  • Wildfire-related twitter table

Firespot

Most of the features on this app cost money. However, Firespot pulls it’s information from reliable sources that may be worth paying for to some, like receiving alerts. The National Interagency Fire Center and the National Wildfire Coordinating Center provide the U.S. fire perimeters and management status. NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites, NASA and NOAA’s joint SUOMI and EESA provide satellite detection. Red Flag warnings and weather is sourced from the National Weather Service.

Features of this app provided on the agency-reported fire map are…

  • Active fire perimeter
  • Inactive fire
  • Prescribed burn
  • Red flag
  • Satellite detected fires
  • Total fires in area, active + burning

Smoke Sense

The U.S. EPA is behind this one. On this app you can check the air quality for your area. It’s simple and easy to understand.

Features of this app are…

  • Air quality index
  • Fire + Smoke near me map
  • Quiz corner
  • Symptom + Smoke observations
  • …. and more

Printable Checklists & Resources

Wildfire Safety checklist (Red Cross)

This checklist includes supplies needed, how to prepare ahead of time, what to do if there are reports of wildfires in your area, and returning home after a wildfire.

Emergency Supplies checklist (PublicAlerts)

Learn how to put together a 2-week emergency supply kit with this checklist. As well as an earthquake and shelter in place emergency supply kit.

How to make an emergency plan for you & Your loved ones (PublicAlerts)

Create you and your family’s emergency plan with this resource.

Our Emergency Plan (PublicAlerts)

Fill out your emergency plan with this resource. Includes individual personal-pharmacy-hospital-shelter information, pets, summary of plan, meeting spots, local emergency contacts, and out-of-area contacts.

First Aid Pet Supply checklist (Red Cross)

A checklist that includes additional items for your pet that should be stored in a waterproof bag. Check out Pet First Aid by Barbara Mammato, DVM, MPH. Which is a handbook sponsored by the American Red Cross & The Humane Society.

Create An Emergency Supply Kit On A Budget (PublicAlerts)

How to make an emergency supply kit on a budget.

Hazy, Smoky Air: Do you know what to do? fact sheet (Oregon Health Authority)

7 tips on what to do when your the air is hazy and smoky.

Dollar Sign Fire (Oregon State archives)

Basic Wildfire Prevention

  • Knowing how to prevent forests fires can be lifesaving!
  • Avoid using any equipment that creates sparks
  • Be sure campfires and grills are completely put out
  • Don’t let vehicle parts drag on the ground, including tow chains
  • Don’t use a gas or electric lawn mower on dry weeds or grass
  • Properly dispose of cigarettes and matches
  • Obey local burn bans and only burn if you have a permit. View Oregon and Washington burn ban maps

Learn more at SmokeyBear.com

Evacuation Levels & What They Mean

LEVEL 1 – Get Ready!

  1. Create evacuation routes during wildfire season with Google maps, Oregon Trip Check and Washington Trip Check. Local authorities will provide escape routes and evacuation areas – follow these routes instead.
  2. Stay informed by looking at emergency websites + local media, sign up for PublicAlerts and Red Cross alerts.
  3. Arrange temporary shelter. Find local emergency shelters through redcross.org and 211info.org, and know the routes to get there.
  4. Gather your emergency supplies and personal belongings in a safe place, like the car. Check your supply kit. Create an emergency supply kit ahead of time at redcross.org.
  5. Keep everyone and your pets close and ready to go.
  6. Go over evacuation checklist provided from redcross.org

There are additional steps to prepare your house, family and pets on the Red Cross and CAL Fire website.

3 Steps Before Level 1 Evacuation Happens

  1. Create a plan that with an evacuation plan for your home, family and pets. Including what to do if you get trapped.
  2. Assemble an Emergency Supply Kit for each person in your household.
  3. Create a communication plan that includes important evacuation +    everyone’s contact information.

LEVEL 2 – Be Set!

Be Alert and Consider Leaving Now

This level indicates significant danger in your area. You should voluntarily relocate to a shelter or location outside of the danger zone.

This May Be the Only Notice You Receive

Emergency services cannot guarantee that they will be able to reach you again if the conditions get worse. If you decide to stay, be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

If You Need Additional Help – Leave Now

Some need extra help, which can affect our ability to quickly leave.

This includes anyone who needs…

  • Hearing or Vision devices
  • Help from a caretaker
  • Medication or Medical devices
  • Public assistance for food and health services
  • Public transportation
  • Regular support from behavior health or Medical professionals
  • Translation or interpretation services

Or anyone who is responsible for…

  • An older adult or Someone with physical challenges
  • Infants or Small children
  • Pets or Livestock
  • Someone with physical, behavioral, or cognitive health issues

LEVEL 3 – GO!

Leave Immediately

  • Danger is very close – leave right away.
  • Do not delay, gather your belongings or try to save your home. Do not stop to shut off your gas. Gas companies can shut down segments of their system when fires threaten the area. Do not return until public officials tell you it’s safe.
  • Emergency services cannot guarantee that they will be able to reach you again if the conditions get worse.
  • Follow your family’s emergency plan.
  • Law enforcement agencies are typically responsible for enforcing an evacuation order. Follow their directions promptly.
  • Officials will determine the areas to be evacuated and escape routes to use depending upon the fire’s location, behavior, winds, terrain, etc.
  • You may be directed to temporary assembly areas to await transfer to a safe location.

Evacuating the forest fire area early also helps firefighters keep roads clear of congestion and lets them move more freely to do their job. In an intense wildfire, they will not have time to knock on every door. If you are advised to leave, don’t hesitate!

Remember The 6 P’s

  • Papers, phone numbers, and important documents
  • People and pets
  • Personal computer hard drive and disks
  • Pictures and irreplaceable memorabilia
  • “Plastic” (credit cards, ATM cards) and cash
  • Prescriptions, eyeglasses, and vitamins

Before Heading Out On An Adventure

Checking the conditions before heading out on your summer adventure is crucial.

Before you head out make sure you…

  • Check the land management websites for the NPS, BLM and Forest Service, then enter the forest/area you are interested in. On the FS website, look at the box on the right side for current alerts, warnings, fire restrictions, burn bans, and area closures
  • Call/visit the local ranger station
  • Check the weather forecasts or the Red Cross app (or other) for red flag warnings + fire weather watches
  • Oregon Department of Forestry Restrictions & Closures site is a good resource for non-U.S. Forest Service managed land

You should also know about the following before heading out…

  • If there is a campfire ban in that forest or park unit
  • If there are any restrictions or warnings about smoking. 
  • If there are any red flag or fire weather warnings
  • The level threat for the area
  • If there are any permanent fire restrictions for the area

What The Smoke Is Telling You

Knowing what different smoke looks like and means can save you.

Smoke swirling straight up

  • Indicates little to no wind

Smoking bending in one direction

  • Fire is pointing to where it is heading

The smoke’s color can provide clues as to what the wildfire is doing

White or gray-colored smoke

  • Indicates the fire is burning light fuels, like grass and twigs
  • Fire would be moving faster

Brown plumes

  • Suggest it’s burning brush

Dark brown and black plumes

  • It has ignited oily vegetation or a structure
  • Fire would be moving a slower pace

What To Do During A Wildfire

Getting caught in a wildfire is never anyone’s goal. However, it can happen unexpectedly out on the trails… like we saw with the Eagle Creek 2017 fire when over 140 hikers got stranded overnight and hiked 11 miles to get out of harm’s way.

Getting caught in a wildfire is never anyone’s goal. However, it can happen unexpectedly out on the trails… like we saw with the Eagle Creek 2017 fire when over 140 hikers got stranded overnight and hiked 11 miles to get out of harm’s way.

If you do get trapped…

  • Crouch in a pond, river or pool
  • Do not put wet clothing or bandanas over your mouth or nose. Moist air causes more damage to airways than dry air at the same temperature

If there is no body of water:

  • Look for shelter in a cleared area or among a bed of rocks
  • Lie flat, face down, and cover your body with soil. Breathe the air close to the ground to avoid scorching your lungs or inhaling smoke

Common Wildfire Term

Here are some common wildfire terms used and their definitions.

  • Brush Fire: A fire burning in vegetation that is predominantly shrubs, brush and scrub growth
  • Burning Conditions: The state of the combined factors of the environment that affect fire behavior in a specified fuel type.
  • Burning Index: An estimate of the potential difficulty of fire containment as it relates to the flame length at the most rapidly spreading portion of a fire’s perimeter.
  • Command Staff: The command staff consists of the information officer, safety officer and liaison officer. They report directly to the incident commander and may have assistants.
  • Complex: Two or more individual incidents located in the same general area which are assigned to a single incident commander or unified command.
  • Contain a fire: A fuel break around the fire has been completed. This break may include natural barriers or manually and/or mechanically constructed line.
  • Control a fire: The complete extinguishment of a fire, including spot fires. Fireline has been strengthened so that flare-ups from within the perimeter of the fire will not break through this line.
  • Control Line: All built or natural fire barriers and treated fire edge used to control a fire.
  • Cooperating Agency: An agency supplying assistance other than direct suppression, rescue, support, or service functions to the incident control effort; e.g., Red Cross, law enforcement agency, telephone company, etc.
  • Creeping Fire: Fire burning with a low flame and spreading slowly
  • Crown Fire (Crowning): The movement of fire through the crowns of trees or shrubs more or less independently of the surface fire.
  • Debris Burning: A fire spreading from any fire originally set for the purpose of clearing land or for rubbish, garbage, range, stubble, or meadow burning.
    Drop Zone: Target area for air tankers, helitankers, and cargo dropping.
    Dry Lightning Storm: Thunderstorm in which negligible precipitation reaches the ground. Also called a dry storm.
  • Escaped Fire: A fire which has exceeded or is expected to exceed initial attack capabilities or prescription.
  • Extreme Fire Behavior: “Extreme” implies a level of fire behavior characteristics that ordinarily precludes methods of direct control action. One of more of the following is usually involved: high rate of spread, prolific crowning and/or spotting, presence of fire whirls, strong convection column. Predictability is difficult because such fires often exercise some degree of influence on their environment and behave erratically, sometimes dangerously.
  • Fingers of a Fire: The long narrow extensions of a fire projecting from the main body.
  • Fire Behavior: The manner in which a fire reacts to the influences of fuel, weather and topography.
  • Fire Behavior Forecast: Prediction of probable fire behavior, usually prepared by a Fire Behavior Officer, in support of fire suppression or prescribed burning operations.
  • Fire Line: A linear fire barrier that is scraped or dug to mineral soil.
  • Fire Perimeter: The entire outer edge or boundary of a fire.
  • Fire Storm: Violent convection caused by a large continuous area of intense fire. Often characterized by destructively violent surface indrafts, near and beyond the perimeter, and sometimes by tornado-like whirls.
  • Fire Triangle: Instructional aid in which the sides of a triangle are used to represent the three factors (oxygen, heat, fuel) necessary for combustion and flame production; removal of any of the three factors causes flame production to cease.
  • Fire Weather: Weather conditions that influence fire ignition, behavior and suppression
  • Head of a Fire: The side of the fire having the fastest rate of spread.
  • Hotspot: A particular active part of a fire.
  • Initial Attack: The actions taken by the first resources to arrive at a wildfire to protect lives and property, and prevent further extension of the fire.
  • Large Fire: 1) For statistical purposes, a fire burning more than a specified area of land e.g., 300 acres. 2) A fire burning with a size and intensity such that its behavior is determined by interaction between its own convection column and weather conditions above the surface.
  • Line Scout: A firefighter who determines the location of a fire line.
  • Litter: Top layer of the forest, scrubland, or grassland floor, directly above the fermentation layer, composed of loose debris of dead sticks, branches, twigs, and recently fallen leaves or needles, little altered in structure by decomposition
  • Prescribed Fire: Any fire ignited by management actions under certain, predetermined conditions to meet specific objectives related to hazardous fuels or habitat improvement.
  • Project Fire: A fire of such size or complexity that a large organization and prolonged activity is required to suppress it.
  • Red Flag Warning: Term used by fire weather forecasters to alert forecast users to an ongoing or imminent critical fire weather pattern.
  • Running: A rapidly spreading surface fire with a well-defined head.
  • Safety Zone: An area cleared of flammable materials used for escape in the event the line is outflanked or in case a spot fire causes fuels outside the control line to render the line unsafe. 
  • Smoldering Fire: A fire burning without flame and barely spreading.
  • Spot Fire: A fire ignited outside the perimeter of the main fire by flying sparks or embers.
  • Structure Fire: Fire originating in and burning any part or all of any building, shelter, or other structure.
  • Timelag: Time needed under specified conditions for a fuel particle to lose about 63 percent of the difference between its initial moisture content and its equilibrium moisture content.
  • Uncontrolled Fire: Any fire which threatens to destroy life, property, or natural resources, and
  • Underburn: A fire that consumes surface fuels but not trees or shrubs.
  • Wildland Fire: Any non-structure fire, other than prescribed fire, that occurs in the wildland.
  • Wind Vectors: Wind directions used to calculate fire behavior.

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