Wildfire season: Here’s what you should keep in your emergency “Go Bag”

Amid Clamor To Increase Prescribed Burns, Obstacles Await - Northwest Wildfire
Mark Ylen

FILE - In this Oct. 7, 2010, file photo, U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife's Rachel York hands a torch to Grande Rhonde Tribe firefighter Jim Pinder while firefighter Aaron Williamson lights native grasses behind the pair near Harrisburg, Ore. Hundreds of millions of acres of forests have become overgrown, prone to wildfires that have devastated towns, triggered massive evacuations and blanketed the West Coast in choking smoke. Today, officials want to sharply increase prescribed burns, with drought and global warming creating a sense of urgency.

TRI-CITIES, Wash. — High temperatures, heavy winds, and large, open fields of vegetation make the Inland Northwest especially susceptible to wildfires. In the event of an emergency, you or a loved one may be forced to evacuate from your homes and get to safety as quickly as possible. One of the best ways to prepare for an emergency wildfire is to keep an emergency kit or “Go Bag” filled with essential items in case you need to get up and go.

The Washington Department of Health has a list of items that make sense for an emergency survival kit in the event of a disaster in the Inland Northwest. They suggest that you fill a bag with the following items and store it at work, home, or at your child’s school. Suggested items are as follows:

  • Dry or canned food and drinking water for each person
  • Can opener
  • First aid supplies and first aid book
  • Copies of important documents such as birth certificates, licenses, and insurance policies
  • “Special needs” items for family members such as infant formula, eyeglasses and medications
  • A change of clothing
  • Sleeping bag or blanket
  • Battery-powered radio or television
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Whistle
  • Waterproof matches
  • Toys, books, puzzles, games
  • Extra house keys and car keys
  • List of contact names and phone numbers
  • Food, water, and supplies for pets

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This is only scratching the surface of the items that you may want to consider in case of a Northwest emergency. There are plenty of cooking supplies that will be useful such as paper goods, plastic utensils, fuel for cooking, and aluminum foil. If possible, keeping a barbecue or camp stove can help you cook and sustain meals for you and your family in the event of an emergency evacuation.

Sanitation supplies are also essential. Large trash bags are suggested as a multi-use tool to dispose of garbage or to protect you from water. Soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper, feminine products, and infant supplies would all be of great use to those in dire situations.

Gloves, sturdy shoes, and a tent can all be incredibly helpful for people trying to escape Northwest wildfires in nature. If you are evacuating your home, you may benefit from keeping rope, shovels, axes, brooms, tape, a knife/razor blade, and a wrench.

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These are clearly for extreme circumstances. However, in the event that you need to leave your home for a night or two to avoid fires or dangerous smoke conditions, you’ll want to use your best judgment. Ask yourself the question “What essential items will I need to get through a week away from home?” Keeping a bag with those items handy will allow you to pick up and go in the event of a dangerous wildfire in your community.

Officials from Grant’s Pass, Oregon have compiled the following shorter and more concise list of essential items to keep in your “Go-Bag:”

  • Clothing and personal toiletries.
  • Inventory of home contents and photographs/videotape of the house and landscape. Contact your insurance agent for an inventory checklist.
  • Flashlight, portable radio tuned to an emergency radio station and extra batteries. Change batteries annually.
  • Extra set of car and house keys.
  • Extra pair of eyeglasses.
  • Contact information for family, friends and physicians.

Being prepared is the best way to keep loved ones safe during a wildfire or other emergency scenario in which you need to pick up and leave home.

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