Get ready now for a wildfire at your doorstep

By Denise Holley/Red Cross Cascades

A cool, wet spring delayed the start of fire season in Oregon and Southwest Washington this year. But now we have hot days, a bumper crop of dry vegetation, occasional lightning, and people camping in the back country.

If a wildfire ignites and spreads to the area where you live, how much warning will you get to evacuate?

You may get a Level 1 “Be Ready” or a Level 2 “Be Set” alert from your county emergency notification system, if you signed up. But if emergency responders pound on your door with a “Go Now” Level 3 notice, what will you grab on the way out?

• Your children and pets. Do you have pet carriers ready to go for small animals? Diapers and supplies for the baby?

• Do you have an elder or disabled person in your household? How will you get this person into your vehicle with the belongings they need?

• Your cell phone. Don’t forget the charger!

• Your medications

• Your vital documents

• Clothing to dress for the weather

You can’t gather these essentials under a Level 3 notice, when a fire could engulf your neighborhood. If you want to survive and keep some of your belongings, prepare now for what might happen.

During wildfire season, stay tuned to local news channels for announcements. Visit your county’s emergency website to find out where fires are burning, what areas need to evacuate, and where to go. If your neighborhood goes into a Level 2 alert, pack your vehicle, and leave early, before roads are jammed with other evacuees. You may or may not receive a Level 3 notice.

The Red Cross urges everyone to put together a “go bag” with these items:

• Water, one gallon per person, per day, a 3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home

• Food, non-perishable, easy to prepare items, 3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home

• Manual can opener

• Flashlight and extra batteries

• Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA weather radio, if possible)

• Family first aid kit

• Medications (7-day supply) and medical items

• Multi-purpose tool

• Pet and baby supplies

• Sanitation and personal hygiene items

• Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, vehicle titles, passports, birth certificates and insurance policies)

• Cell phone with chargers

• Family and emergency contact information

• Extra cash

• Emergency blanket

• Extra car and house keys

• Map(s) of the area

Some of these items are available in the Red Cross store –

The Red Cross encourages you to download their disaster-related apps to your phone or tablet, by searching “American Red Cross” in your app store or visiting

During fire season, I pack a large suitcase with my favorite clothes, essential documents, and a phone charger and headset. I put it next to my bed, along with my best shoes in a large fabric bag, a cardigan sweater with a hood and a waterproof jacket. My computer case is there, too, if I have time to pack it with the cord and mouse.

Most of my hygiene essentials fit into a zipper bag, including contact lenses and solution. My car is already loaded with jugs of water and a box of nonperishable food, spare pillow and blankets, and a sleeping bag. If a fire approaches, I think I’m ready.