California Wildfire Update

September 1, 2009

Press Release: Wildfire Safety Tips

August 31, 2009


Red Cross Shelters Wildfire Evacuees
Safety tips also offered as fires threaten

WASHINGTON, August 31, 2009 – The American Red Cross is on the scene offering evacuees a safe place to stay as wildfires in California force people from their homes and scorch thousands of acres. Overnight, nearly 200 people took refuge from the smoke and fire in Red Cross shelters.

“If you are ordered to leave your home, please do it immediately,” said Joe Becker, Red Cross senior vice president for disaster services, “These wildfires can be very dangerous. You will find a safe place to stay, a warm meal, and a shoulder to lean on at your community’s shelters.”

Those affected by the fires can register on the Red Cross Safe and Well web site, an easy way to notify loved ones of their well-being. People can either place the call themselves, or have someone do it for them. Registration can be done by visiting or by calling 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767). Friends and family can then search for their message by using their phone number or address.

Red Cross offers the following safety tips to keep those in the vicinity of the fires prepared and safe:

• If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
• Follow the instructions of local officials.
• Back the car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape. Shut the vehicle doors and windows and leave the keys in the ignition. Close the garage windows and doors, but leave them unlocked. Disconnect automatic garage door openers.
• Confine pets to one room and make plans to care for them in case of an evacuation order. Arrange temporary housing at a friend or relative’s home outside the threatened area.
• If evacuating, wear sturdy shoes, cotton or woolen clothing, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and a handkerchief to protect your face.
• Take a Disaster Supplies Kit with you.
• Lock the house when leaving.
• Tell someone your time of departure and destination.
• Choose a route away from the fires and watch for changes in the speed and direction of fire and smoke.
• Take prescription and emergency medication, extra clothing, pillows, blankets, hygiene supplies, important documents and other comfort items with you. Don’t forget special items for children and infants such as diapers, formula, and toys. Remember special items for family members who are elderly or disabled.

If there is enough time:

• Close windows, vents, doors, blinds and heavy drapes. Remove lightweight curtains.
• Shut off gas at the meter and turn off pilot lights.
• Open the fireplace damper and close fireplace screens.
• Move flammable furniture into the center of the home, away from windows and sliding-glass doors.
• Turn a light on in each room to make the home more visible in heavy smoke.
• Seal attic and ground vents outside the home.
• Turn off propane tanks.
• Place combustible patio furniture inside.
• Connect the garden hose to outside spigots.
• Wet or remove shrubs within 15 feet of the home.

Help people affected by disasters like the current wildfires, by donating to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. On those rare occasions when donations exceed Red Cross expenses for a specific disaster, contributions are used to prepare for and serve victims of other disasters. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for disasters and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance to victims of all disasters. Call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting


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