Wildfire preparedness and mindset – How to evacuate quickly, safely

In July 2018, I wrote two articles for an online news magazine, “East County Magazine”:  “PEACE OF MIND” 3-10 MINUTE EVACUATION PLAN FOR WILDFIRES PART 1, and “PEACE OF MIND” 3-10-MINUTE EVACUATION PLAN FOR WILDFIRES PART 2

Thirteen months later, much of the “Peace of Mind” I’d written about in Wildfires Part 2, was greatly reduced when I received a Non-Renewal Notice from my insurance company.  I was, however, able to obtain government mandated insurance of last-resort for homes in areas prone to wildfires via the California Fair Plan insurance.  (Twice as much money, and much less coverage.)  

Expensive or not, insurance is critical to your peace-of-mind if you live in a wildfire-prone area.  On the news, you’ll see distraught people after every fire saying “We’ve lost everything!”  In my opinion, there are two categories of importance:   stuff and people.   Stuff can be replaced, people cannot.  

The mindset of the importance of Stuff and People needs to be considered BEFORE a catastrophic loss.   Nothing is worth the life of a family member or friend who stayed too long to protect Stuff from burning.   In the 2003 Cedars wildfire in California, 15 people lost their lives.  In the 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County in California, 88 people lost their lives.  

The information learned since I wrote those articles in July 2018 is the same.  To distill the articles:


People on theprepared.com have a different mindset about catastrophic events.   The definition of preparedness is “a state of readiness, especially for ___________”(fill in the blanks).    In this case, it’s wildfire.  

If there is a possibility of wildfire near you, fill your car with gas, park it next to your front door pointed out in the direction of travel, review your exit roads (use the Paper Map of the area you bought earlier).  Take the hour or so to pre-pack the car.    Then DO NOT WAIT FOR ANYONE TO TELL YOU TO EVACUATE–LEAVE EARLY.  It may cost a family $200 to $300 for a hotel room and about 2 hours work to pack and unpack if no fire reaches your home.   Money and time well spent.

I could spend hours providing specific information about wildfire dynamics, insurance in urban-interface areas, and the many, many reasons why you need to leave early.    However, if you follow the advice provided in Wildfires Part 1 and 2, AND if you pre-prepare your mindset and that of your family to leave everything behind and drive to safety–you’ll be ready.

I have completely evacuated three times and been ready to leave about 5 times.  My home only burned down once.   


  • Comments (69)

    • 2

      Good morning Wildfireexpert,

      Had been following a not too well publicized aspect of some Calif insurers providing their policy-holders private sector fire fighter companies for insured dwelling. Much can be understood about the uproar over this “innovation”.

      Here also ready to evacuate also by boat into the Bay. This mode cannot be used during a mandatory evac because of new restrictions on private sector water evacs.

    • 3

      You seem to have lived and survived many wildfire situations, thank you for taking the time to share of your experiences here. How key was a bug out bag for you in evacuations? And how did you get your family on board with being able to leave at a moment’s notice?

      • 5

        @Jay Valencia – A prepper-style survival backpack has never been used in our wildfire evacuations.  Each family member’s bug-out-bags (bob’s) is prepared for the extremely low-probability event that we have to leave our homes and live outside and survive away from our home.  Hopefully, we never have to use these bob’s.  

        Wildfire evacuations are done by driving your car and your stuff to a safe location at a hotel or family member/friend’s home.   Instead of bob’s, we have a written prioritized list of what to throw into cars if we have to evacuate.  Each person has a specific job according to their age and ability. 

        Getting family on board with leaving everything is the result of 20 years of teaching the kids as they grew up, getting them into CERT courses, and telling them their individual tasks in case of wildfire.   With that said, one of the adults in our core family group of 6 people has tried to literally get in our way and not evacuate.  This is gonna happen!    Some people are wired to react quickly and some are not.  In 2003, this individual actually tried to stand in the way as his wife pushed him aside and continued to load kids, paperwork, food, drinks, diapers, blankets.  Pre-plan to give these reluctant family members a specific task(s) written on paper:  Gather all the laptops, electronics, cords, chargers;  open the gates/garage door, contact family/friends by social media/text about evacuation and provide out-of-state phone/email to get updates.    

        Many people will never be able to drive off and leave everything behind–especially if they don’t have insurance.   In my opinion and from personal observation men are nearly always the ones who want to stay.  In 2018 a dear friend and neighbor evacuated his kids and girlfriend, then stayed to put out the spot fires!    He didn’t even own his home, he was a renter!   He probably saved my mobile home (which was insured) from burning.     Would that matter if he died trying?  He was willing to leave his children without a father to be a hero.  This happens a lot.  Five of my extended family members drove into our neighborhood with flames on both sides of the road to “check it out” AFTER they knew we were safely evacuated.  (I’m still livid years later.)

      • 4

        “Many people will never be able to drive off and leave everything behind”

        I’ve read there’s actually a name for this, it’s called “Normalcy Bias” and would be a great subject for conversation here.  It hit us a bit, as we disbelieved there was any real danger in our evac situation.  (Should we really go?  The fire is miles from here!) 

        Normalcy bias can really inhibit officials from doing their job in a disaster.  Here is the Wikipedia definition of Normalcy Bias:

        Normalcy bias is a cognitive bias which leads people to underestimate the likelihood of a disaster, when it might affect them, and its potential adverse effects.  …causes many people to not adequately prepare for natural disasters, market crashes, and calamaties caused by human error.  About 70% of people reportedly display normalcy bias during a disaster.

        This phenomenon is really something we should be prepared to experience. It also makes for some very interesting reading.

      • 2

        @Dogpatch–It’s confirmed, you are my clone.   I researched normalcy bias for months.   It is part of being human.  This is what public health personnel have been dealing with since January 2020.

      • 2

        LOL!  I am exceedingly flattered!  I’m sure I’m not remotely in your class when it comes to preparedness.  I came across that fascinating term in an LDS preparedness manual and it’s actually rather shocking to realize that I was very much in that state at the onset of the realization that we might have to go.  Perhaps this conversation will come back to me in the next disaster, so that we don’t fall victim to it. 

        Thanks for the great discussion!

      • 3

        Those in hurricane territory fall victim to the normalcy bias very often from what I understand. There probably isn’t a hard and set rule of who you can expect to leave or not. The new family that just moved to the area and have never experienced a hurricane may evacuate because they don’t know what to expect and are going to play it safe, but then they also might stay because they don’t know what a hurricane is capable of. Even with the veterans of the area you can’t be certain what they will do. Many will leave as soon as they see one starting because they have seen the devastating power that comes with them, but then there are those who have gone through twenty hurricanes and they think that they can hold out through this next one. See, no hard and set rules of who might fall into this normalcy bias.

        I do strongly believe that not having a plan on where to go or how to get there will lead many to stay longer then they should. Have two or three friends houses/hotels in which you can go and plan on how you will get there. You will feel more confident and be able to move when you need to.

      • 2

        Good evening Jay,

        I’m in hurricane alley.  It’s basically east of the Shendandoah Valley to the Atlantic and a small wind change changes the already wide margins very rapidly.

        Besides someone here not timely evacuating can also change out of their control.  The state roads flood. We have here flash floods accompanying hurricanes. It could be dry here for now but heavy rains west of Richmond. Since the state slopes downward to sea level where I’m at, besides the evacuation option going away, rescue vehicles can’t help much. 

        A couple of comments on veterans.  Many got introduced to area by nearby service in the several huge military facilities.  They stayed here. Coastal living does provide a nice life style and it wasn’t expensive to get a place here, boat permits, and the rest. Then with the expansion of government – county, city – building permits were easy to obtain. County / city taxes determined much. FEMA subsidized flood insurance.

        Then the area version of judgement day arrived ………………

        You’re right; if not having a (rehearsed) evac plan, some folks could be donating their bodies to school social studies departments.  The science departments are already loaded.

        Thanks for addressing the hurricane areas.

      • 1

        Thank you for your insightful response sir. 

        Quite the bravery there from the renter turned firefighter. But not very brave or smart of your family members for sight seeing through the neighborhood after they evacuated. 

        Good tip on giving each member of the family a specific task to keep them on point and not freak out and do something stupid. 

    • 5

      We are in W. Oregon, watching wildfire news carefully.  We had to evacuate last year, though no flames ever came near the house. 

      We have horses.  I believe anyone who thinks livestock – even chickens – are part of preparedness, needs to stop and think about the fate of their animals if they have to leave.  In Oregon last year, so many people had so many farm animals with no way to transport them. Imagine third world car camping with chickens and pigs in overcrowded fairgrounds.

      The county decided to pretty much dump a gigantic portion of its population onto its winding little two-lane roads all at once (Level 3 evac) when there was no discernible threat to most citizens.

      To say chaos reigned would be putting it lightly.

      We had time to pack.  I wrote down everything we packed and what container it was in.  Later, I wrote down some of our mistakes.  This past May, I organized and used those notes to start staging everything we need to pack, including for the horses and pets.  We bought a lot of stuff we were short-handed on for the evac – stuff we’ll probably never use, but will help us dig in comfortably if the county decides to burn again. (things like a crate cover and pad for a large wire crate the house cat had to stay in, and a folding wheelbarrow to clean up after the horses). It was truly an evacuation drill in real time.

      The horse trailer is packed and almost everything else is containerized and staged. The horses load easily.  Last year, many people were begging on social media for help to come and transport their animals to…where? Many of these animals were not trained to load onto transportation.

      We won’t wait until Level 3 to leave, if there’s a next time. If most of the threat had been “real”, half the county would have perished waiting at stop signs, trying to get on to the main road to the freeway. There was a sheriff’s presence in our immediate area but they were racing back and forth gleefully in the untraveled lane of the road we were trying to escape on,  and not one of them was performing traffic control at a critical intersection where we were stuck for over an hour.

      In contrast, my brother and his family were evacuated in your 2007 fire, and getting onto the highway was managed by police with military precision.  Happily, when he got home, his was one of the only houses in the neighborhood left standing.

      The fire department will be holding a town hall meeting next week at our local station.  It will be very interesting!

      • 3

        Good note to practice bugging out with your chickens and goats…

        Glad you all are safe and sound, and it looks like it was a valuable experience for you to know what worked and what didn’t. Besides evacuating earlier, what are some of the other mistakes that were made if you don’t mind me asking? 

        I would attend that town hall meeting with your fire department next week and see what nuggets of intel you can glean from them and give yourself a little foresight into next evac.

      • 3

        I don’t think we made any really serious mistakes, other than underestimating traffic gridlock and gas consumption when the county put the whole area under level 3 evacuation.  We always keep the vehicles topped up so we were fine, just wishing for an extra can of gas.  We’ve got a dedicated jug now, the special funnel needed for the new truck, and a gas transfer pump.

        Two things that have come up repeatedly on local social media, ESPECIALLY with livestock, leave before you have to!  This was the first time the county had flexed its new emergency notification system.  So who knew how to respond?  The other thing is, go as far away as you reasonably can.  Lots of people evac’d out of the level 3 zone, only to be engulfed by it days later.

        Probably the biggest mistake we made was prepping only for shelter in place situations.  We never dreamed an evacuation would happen to us. And of course 40 years ago, when we first bought this place, we’d have hardened it against wildfire.  That’s pretty impossible now.  We can only hope that teenagers with rifles and propane bottles aren’t going out into the nearby forests to target practice…

      • 1

        @Dogpatch–you sound like my clone.   Ditto on the traffic gridlock and running out of gas.  Ditto on pre-staging for animals.  You are spot-on for everything we have done and will continue to do for future evacuations.

    • 4

      Ready.gov has some very useful info about navigating wildfires (and other disasters) in addition to the op’s thoughts. I keep a PDF version on my mobile for quick reference.

      And although I don’t subscribe to the mindset that made “The Art of Manliness” a thing, there are some useful infographics, like this one:


      The more sources of valuable information we share, the more we can be prepared.

      • 1

        I love all those infographics from The Art of Manliness! I would have thought the opposite of #1 in that picture though. What are your thoughts on that Matt? Would you wet your clothes by jumping in a nearby stream before running away from a fire or would your first thought be to stay dry like it says?

      • 1

        For me, this information isn’t some opinion poll, subject to the whims of “Okay, everyone, upvote the best answer”.

        I don’t play it loose with my life or the life of others like that.

        I wholeheartedly defer to the more knowledgeable others here and elsewhere, who have received credentialed training and have had actual, real life experience, not those who think this is merely some Gedankenexperiment.

      • 1

        I didn’t mean it like a poll but just was curious what your natural instincts would be if you didn’t know any better and had to escape a fire and had a bottle of water with you. Personally, my first instinct would be to get my clothes wet because wet clothes to me seem harder to catch fire or melt if they are synthetic. My gut instinct says that if fire comes in contact with a wet piece of clothing it first has to heat up and evaporate the water before it is able to start working on the cloth of the clothing, thus buying you extra time.

        I also watched a show years ago that had a navy seal teaching you how to survive various disasters and a fire was one of them. The show taught you to get every piece of clothing wet because it would buy you more time if having to go close to a fire.

        When doing a quick Google search, I wasn’t able to find info on wetting your own clothing but did find many sites say that if you are trapped in a building with a fire to wet any cloth you can and stuff it near the crack in the door to prevent smoke from coming in. Not sure if the wetting is to prevent smoke better than a dry cloth or if it is to make it last longer against heat and flames. 

      • 2

        Good morning Jay,

        Do note that a fire’s poison gases kill prior than the flames.

    • 2

      Please, please take the time to read the “Peace of Mind” articles with hyperlinks mentioned at the beginning of this post.   If the hyperlink doesn’t connect, send me a message.

    • 2

      I really appreciate this post and links to the evacuation plans. I live in Vancouver Island in British Columbia and every summer the wildfires seem to get worse here (an entire town burnt down recently). Most of the fires have been on the mainland of BC but I have still been thinking a lot about what we would do if a fire was coming close by on the island. I am very much a person who would have us packing our car and hightailing it out of town at even the slightest chance of evacuation. I would not wait to be told especially since this island isn’t that big and there’s only one highway up the island.  If a fire is out of control where I live then there’s really only one way out and I have visions of traffic being at a standstill on the highway once an evacuation order is put out. I also have visions of the fire coming down the island and then I’m not sure where we would go as we are on the very southern end.  Nowhere to go but the water. I’m sure emergency personnel would do their best but I don’t have a lot of faith that they would be able to direct everyone out of here to safety and be able to control the mayhem from all the people who aren’t even remotely prepared (although from what you say it sounds like normalcy bias may dampen that). I really like the idea of having a pre-made list based on the amount of time there is to evacuate at the ready so we don’t have to scramble thinking about what to pack. I’m going to put that together ASAP.

      • 3

        On behalf of myself and the others who have responded, glad this topic has been helpful.   

        I rarely participate in online forums about prepping.  I read about prepping a lot.  I have so much to share about safe/sane wildfire evacuation–it’s my personal “soapbox”.   Some will listen, most will not.   Here is an abbreviated version of my evacuation list printed on paper and taped to inside bath cabinet:

        IN PRIORITY ORDER:   (This should only take 3-5 minutes)

        Lock dog in hall bathroom until can place in emergency carrier. (this hyperlink will give exact instructions on my pre-staged dog carrier)  “PEACE OF MIND” 3-10 MINUTE EVACUATION PLAN FOR WILDFIRES PART

        Contact Sam/Sal/Kids by phone AND text

        Get dogs Emergency Carrier from Shed, place on front seat of car

        Unlock and position car pointed out toward exit–Press Panic button on fob to warn neighbors that something is up

        Put dog in Carrier and place in front seat of car

        Purse, Cel phone, Charger

        All keys in my plastic box in cupboard by tv

        Daily Medicine containers (on top of microwave in kitchen)

        Emergency medical information on side of fridge

        N95 masks, PPE, and Over-the-Counter meds stored in guest room


        Blue documents case

        BiPap Air Curve 10 by bed (take all connected cords and VERY IMPORTANT DC adapter cable above shoe storage near the deep cell batteries in the guest room

        Laptop and charging cable

        Plastic box of photos on closet shelf AND Grandma’s old family papers in box

        WHAT TO PACK NEXT ONLY IF TIME PERMITS:   (Shouldn’t take more than 10 more minutes)

        Extra dog food

        Water and Mountain House food under Guest Bed

        Emergency supplies stored under Guest Bed

        Sister’s oil painting in hallway (wrap in blankets/dirty launder in hamper)

        Wood Statue in front room (wrap in blankets/clothes)

        Clothes, Shoes, Socks, Underwear, Bra, Coat (place in large trash bag)

        Blankets, pillows

        Curio cabinet items (wraps in blankets, clothes)

        NOW DRIVE TO FAMILY’S HOME!   (see attached Evacuation lists for their home)

        The rest of the page has Emergency OUT OF STATE Contact Numbers/Names.

        Emergency health information on each family member, including their health insurance plan name and ID number and phone/address.    Include any allergies and blood type of each family member

      • 2

        Good morning Wildfire Expert,

        Definitely most helpful of a thread. I look forward to reading your follow on entries.

        Some early AM rambling in chron order;

        Not sure of the shed setup. Here, anything from barm, tool shed or well house (some special tools and pump sprays of stuff for light machinery) are co-located with disinfectant/bug spray and small bags of moth balls (camphor – IMO the “best” for emergency use is menthol-based and not the newer chemicals.) Nothing enters truck with a hint of bugs or mold … mildew acceptable; this is humid,hot weather territory and difficult to address mildew.

        N-95 masks are “prohibited” for non health care workers in Virginia as per Governor’s Executive Order. Thus, my loadout of N-95s has some copies of responder ID cards in case a “strict constructionist” auxillery worker gets “upset” when checking my vehicle for leaking cannisters of fuel.

        About every 18 months I write to the elected officials here to follow up with my request for FEMA to modify the “out of state” statement re notifications. The land of famous documents has been dumbed down. Alerting friend/relative outside of Virginia such as North Carolina and Maryland just does not qualify to address need. Here, it really means both out of topographic and geographic area. I knew FEMA would evolve into a classical bureaucracy. When it was being established, I was a reserve emergency manager working a national program. All my colleagues knew what was pending.

        One thing I teach re medical records carried during an evac is to have most visible document in somewhat visible clear plastic freezer bag – that’s what I use – is the traditional CDC 731 immunization pamplet issued by CDC. It is a recognizable symbol of medical records. Remember, if in a collision and not conscious, the responders will recognize it much more than another pouch of docs. Also remember, it’s night and literacy standards are not necessarily First World class.

        Here in hurricane territory, a hard hat needed.  Madam hates them and avoids use – until – then quietly substituted for boonie hat.

        Gloves, gloves, gloves, gloves………………………………… 

      • 3

        @Bob – Thanks for being an emergency responder!    (Tell Madam I hate hard hat too.    Had to get a strap for the thing to stay on my head.)    Re:  N95 masks.     I had about 40 stored for wildfire smoke use before the pandemic.   Because our family is prone to COPD/asthma, these are essential to maintain health if smoke is present.   I shared about half of them with a nurse/neighbor with COPD/and family returning to China by plane in February 2020.    Nothing but N95 or N100 works for wildfire smoke which has all sorts of really nasty chemicals in the smoke.  If I hadn’t already had them, it would have been impossible to get them for about 18 months.  

        To people who don’t already know this:  NOTHING works for toxic wildfire smoke except N95 or N100.    Here is hyperlink from the CDC website:  Other than N95 respirators, masks that are used to slow the spread of COVID-19 offer little protection against the harmful air pollutants in wildfire smoke.

      • 2

        Good morning Wildfireexpert,

        Well received.

        Ref hard hats – the basic big box store (ANSI level 1) – types:

        Go to picture-hanging hardware section and look for picture hangers that must be wood-screwed into wooden picture frame. The basic hard hats (with the many exceptions) have premolded holes to fit #6 – 32 x 1″ machine screws/bolts. Comfortable and adjustable helmet straps can be aded to helmet.  Mine also incorporate a whistle. 

        (In production now is a firefighters helmet that’s NIJ 3A body armor level (expensive for private citizen preppers of middle class; Believe it was during California’s Paradise fire that some de facto criminal fired at a responding fire truck. He was charged and convicted of a misdemeanor and not a felony. Thus the new firefighter helmet.  We retired emergency responders helped [and still working on this] on this subject. Heavy politics so not appropriate for here).

      • 1

        That is a very straightforward and clear list of things to do. I would like to make something similar for my family and do some practice runs with it, so thank you for the idea.

      • 2

        @Olly – Glad it was helpful.   I’ve been learning and incorporating what I’ve learned for decades.   

      • 3

        Good morning C Lee,

        The visions of standstill traffic are correct. 

        A water evac is something to consider. Specifics determining, one of my main plans is to take the inflatable boat into the Chesapeak Bay – if allowed; new restrictions are in place for private sector water craft if/when a formal official evac is announced or sometimes even if/when official announcement is evac is being publicly discussed at high level.

        You’re right about emergency personnel.  I’m one of ’em …… just can’t comment on the web in re mayhem.

        One of my evac cargo vests incorporates a floatation work vest of closed cell foam – like workers use around water infrastructure. No cell phone, no sat phone, … just other gadgets like strobe light and extra pockets. A transponder is not needed; calls will not be acted on.  There are too few emergency responders here except at the winter solstice party and awards ceremony.

        Again, do reflect on a water evac.Just getting near offshore could be a lifesaver.

      • 4

        @Bob is 100% correct about traffic being blocked when people don’t leave early–especially with any kind of livestock.   It’s not only traffic gridlock for miles on 2-lane roads/intersections, it is the strong likelihood of the unavailability of hotel rooms in safe areas.   

        In September 2020 on the Friday before Labor Day Weekend, I got the willies when the forecast was EXTREME heat/wildfire danger/rolling blackouts.    (I’m sure I have PTSD from wildfires and get hyper-aware at the slightest possibility of evacuation.)   I started calling around the beach areas and found that even during the pandemic, EVERY room for 100 miles around near the coast was booked.  I then prepared my car and BiPap (like a CPAP) as though I was evacuating and staying in my car and leaving it running for the A/C and to run my medical equipment.  

        Fortunately, I didn’t have to evacuate that weekend, even though there was a fire within about 20 miles.   But, I was shocked to find zero rooms available over the weekend. 

      • 4

        Seconded on traffic and leaving early.  When we were evacuated for fire, the 5-lane road (2 lanes in each direction and  center turn lane) was creeping along.  We were on the way out and the other side had horse trailers trying to get in to help get the animals out.  It was a work day.  We stayed home to monitor and pack, and left around 1pm.   So many folks didn’t anticipate the need or couldn’t skip work.  Now I know it may have been normalcy bias.  

      • 2

        I see gridlock traffic in my area even during the best of times. Having an evacuation worthy emergency is going to be even scarier.

        Being able to go glamping (glamour camping in your car) might be  a smart idea so you can just set up shop in a Walmart parkinglot if everything else is booked up.

      • 2

        Smart idea Alisa! Most Walmart or other large parking lots would be pretty open & free of fire fuel too, maybe? We had friends that had to evacuate with goats, and they set up in a large parking lot with temp fencing they brought along. Would need lots of water & feed of course, etc. 

    • 4

      I live in unincorporated San Diego County and have had to evacuate three times.  I appreciated reading this thread — lots of good tips and a reminder to review plans.  

      I am now feeling pretty ready for future quick evacuations, but I am wondering what could be done to prepare in the event I’m not at home when it comes time to evacuate.

      Yes, I travel with some survival essentials, but I’ve been wondering what I could do to prepare for an extended unplanned stay away.  For example, instead of planning to grab my box of vital docs, should be uploading pictures of vital documents to a secure spot? What I could do before I leave home on a trip in case disaster strikes while away?

      • 3

        Store a tote of supplies with a friend or family member who you could evacuate to. That way no matter where you are, you can have a stash somewhere. 

        Uploading vital documents to the cloud or a flash drive in your tote with your family is a good idea to make sure you don’t lose everything.

      • 3

        @Amy – Absolutely do as suggested by Alisa Felix.    Honestly, this is the hardest part for me.   Keeping updated video of the belongings in my home for insurance proof, organizing papers and pics and buying insurance is miserable.  Insurance is especially miserable in California because the only options for many people in wildfire-prone areas is to purchase expensive California Fair Plan insurance and pay 2-3 times as much for coverage similar to that available to a renter or homeowner in town.  

        Part of the “Mindset” on this thread is to face the very real possibility you may NOT be able to return home!   If you have a neighbor you can trust with a house key, ask them to grab your pet if there is an evacuation and you are not home.  Never leave kids too young to drive without a babysitter or responsible neighbor that has a working car.   

        Several back-country fires have had fatalities because people were living on the cheap in a beat-up RV or car that didn’t run.  There have been fatalities because people have tried to find their dogs or cats.  My dad lost a cat and a horse to fire, along with everything he owned.  Had he stuck around to save those animals, or tried to go in an get them, he would died 17 years before his time. 

      • 2

        I’m so glad you liked my comment! I dread shopping for insurance as well.

        Even worse though is trying to file a claim with one. They are very quick and nice to take your money when you are signing up for a policy, but not as much when you want something from them.

    • 4

      August, Washington state—It’s fire season and I’m as prepared as possible. My policy is to hightail it MUCH sooner than others and MUCH further. Given the right conditions, wildfires spread fast and far. Been there, lost the house.

      So, this time of year, our vehicles always have full tanks, are parked facing out, and go bag plus other gear already stashed in each vehicle. Additionally, next to the go bags are car-only additions. If I have to bug out on foot, I’ll just remove my go bag and leave the rest.

      We also have a teardrop trailer that is packed (food, tools, bedding) and ready to hook up if there’s time and roads are clear. 

      My go bag has morphed over the years. Less “roughing it in the woods” and more “getting to an evac center, airport, or 60 miles down the road.” I still have a lot of core go bag items (below), but my clothing is more everyday-friendly for travel (also, Grey Man), though it’s still technically smart…I also have more travel-sized bath items. I switch out cold weather/hot weather clothing twice a year. I’m 70 and I have Long Covid, which means bad lungs, so I won’t be Mad Maxing it any time soon.

      MY LIST (Kelty Redwing 44 Backpack)


      —GRAB FIRST kitty, kitty sling, iPhone, keys, Trail Buddy poles by front door
      —If driving, add loaded Tech Bag (iPad, laptop, etc.) & Personal Item (airplane) 
      —(Everything else is in SUV, or in backpack)

      Outdoor Research sun hat, CLC Custom Leathercraft work gloves, bandana, Shemagh, Fox 40 Sonik Blast whistle, LED mini-flashlight (with stretch lanyard), running/hiking shoes

      ON BELT
      Sabre tactical pepper gel, Friendly Swede paracord bracelet, Leatherman multi-tool

      First Aid kit (350-piece), emergency blanket, emergency dental repair kit, insect repellent

      Paper map
      Passport & cash (two 50s) in neck pouch
      Waterproof notepad & pen
      Suunto compass 
      Signal mirror
      Power bank for iPhone
      iPhone + recharging cube & cable + earphones
      128GB iDrive thumb drive with laptop & legal docs, house photos
      Baofang two-way HAM radio
      SKMEI women’s waterproof watch
      1-month of prescriptions

      Rain jacket
      Rain pants
      Baseball cap

      Metal water bottle (filled)
      Water purifying tablets

      HydroBlu Versa Flow Water Filter System
      LED Maglight w/stretch lanyard
      Blue bag: fire-starting kit // small duct tape, sewing kit, large safety pin

      2 N95 face masks, Neutrogena hydro boost lotion, chapstick, headlamp, pee funnel 

      MAIN BAG
      (Inner Pocket)
      2 heavy duty contractor garbage bags 
      Waterproof playing cards
      (From top down)
      Down jacket
      Meal bars, tea bags, electrolyte tabs
      —(Probar Wholeberry Blast / 380 cal/per bar, 10 bars = 3 days/3800 cal.)
      —(Nuun Sport: Electrolyte Drink Tablets, Lemon Lime)
      Combat heavy duty body wipes
      (Bath Bag)
      BigOtters PCS compressed towelettes (for toilet paper/wiping up)
      Travel size Dove antiperspirant
      Travel shampoo
      Travel Neutrogena SPF 50 sunscreen
      Small French hand-milled lavender soap
      Travel toothpaste/brush
      Carmex (pot & stick)
      Nail clippers
      (Winter Clothing)
      Sleeping mask & earplugs
      Silver grey puffer jacket
      Black wicking turtleneck
      Grey Meriwool merino crewneck 
      Black Columbia fitted polar fleece jacket
      Black fleece-lined + regular leggings
      2 pair Darn Tough wool socks
      Bra, tech undies
      (Bagged) Watch cap, gaiter, Isotoner gloves with fleece lining
      (Summer Clothing)
      Sleeping mask & earplugs
      Black LL Bean lightweight down jacket (nights)
      Grey Amazon Essentials tech wicking tee 
      Khaki Little Donkey Andy SPF50 breathable camp shirt
      Black 95% Rayon, 5% Spandex long tank dress 
      Black cropped & regular leggings
      Black Meriwool merino crewneck (nights)
      Short & regular Darn Tough socks
      Bra, tech undies
      Flip flops

      WARMTH: SOL Escape Bivy

      Carrying sling
      GoTags stainless pet ID tags w/microchip info
      Poo pads/garbage bag
      24oz. water, 3 days kibble, collapsible food/water bowls
      First aid, litter/foldable pan/scoop/bags
      Halter/leash, toys
      Camp towel, emergency blanket, contractor plastic bag
      Feline First Aid + flea/tick meds + Bach flower remedy + Feliway

      IN CAR
      Hard hat, safety goggles, work boots
      Half-face respirator with P100 filters + snow board goggles
      Rain poncho (in glove box)
      2-person tent
      Sleeping bag & Klymit Insulated Static V Sleeping Pad + pillow
      Expanded kitty gear: full-size kibble, treats, litter/pan/scoop, hard sided carrier
      Full size daily supplements in plastic box
      More meal bars
      Case of LaCroix + gallon jugs of water
      Some flannel shirts, cargo shorts, extra tech tees

      2 weeks Mountain House meals (in anti-rodent snap-lid polycarbonate box) + our favorite smoothie protein powder & Hoosier Hill Farm heavy cream powder
      2 Scepter BPA 5-gallon water containers, filled + teardrop’s own HydroBlu Versa Flow water filter system + 10L gravity bag
      2 40L duffels for each of us to have a change of clothing (pants, tee, shirt, underwear, socks, down vest, knit cap)
      Laundry: 5-gal lidded tub, toilet plunger, clothesline, clothes pins, Camp Suds
      Bedding, camping clothing, bath/kitchen gear, books
      Propane, gas, solar
      Tools, small generator 

      • 1

        Growing up, my father had us clean out our trailer in between uses so that mice and other critters didn’t have a feast. But storing food in a trailer ready to pull out of the driveway is a good idea in a preparedness way. How do you keep your food from getting eaten into while your trailer is just sitting there?

      • 1

        Snap-lid polycarbonate boxes. Like restaurants use. Also, trailer is stored in garage and has rodent traps.

      • 1

        What electrolyte tabs do you have in your kit?


      • 2

        Tubes of Nuun Sport: Electrolyte Drink Tablets, Lemon Lime

      • 2

        Good evening A2,

        Real good; I’m impressed !

        Am guessing many newcomers are not familiar with the Foxx 40 Sonik Blast whistle.  They’re good to have.

      • 1

        Thanks, Bob. This has taken me two years, in addition to my SIP prepping. I still need some serious water collection in my garage, but that’s it.

      • 2

        @A2 – High Five!

        Sorry about long COVID, but you’ve done superb mitigation in case of emergency.   I’m totally envious of the tear drop trailer!   Thanks for the exhaustive list.  This is not only entertaining (you know you’re a prepper when you love reading lists), but super helpful for others as a learning tool. 

      • 4

        Thanks, wildfireexpert. I’ve been in or close-to several massive wildfires + lived in Northern CA and now WA, so earthquakes are a thing, too. I have become increasingly worried about being better prepared because evac centers are terrible places without a well-packed bag, and rushing out the door in the middle of the night is confusing and shocking.

        The teardrop only takes about 15 minutes to hook up, but still…that’s second stage, not grab-n-go.

        This way, I can literally grab the cat and run. And yes, worst case scenario…just run. 😢

      • 4

        UPDATE—Had a conversation about all this with my husband last night.

        The teardrop now has *two weeks* of Mountain High food packets stored in lidded polycarbonate boxes + our favorite smoothie protein powder and Hoosier Hill Farm heavy cream powder.

        + two Scepter BPA 5-gallon water containers, filled, and its own HydroBlu Versa Flow water filter system + 10L gravity bag.

        + two 40L duffels for each of us to have a change of clothing (pants, tee, shirt, underwear, socks, down vest, knit cap).

        + clothesline, clothes pins, and 8oz. Camp Suds.

        Along with the go bags we have in our vehicles, this adds to our road readiness.

      • 1

        Thank you for the update on how your trailer is loaded up.

        Those boxes seem like they would keep bugs and mice out of your food. 

      • 2

        They’re very effective. I use them for our household emergency foods, as well. Cambro brand, used by restaurants. Five years, no problems.

    • 5

      Howdy everyone.   This thread has been heartening when so many posts indicate that people ARE paying attention to wildfire evacuations.    Today, 8/6/21, the news is full of the latest small rural town that is burned, Greenville, California.   ‘Catastrophically destroyed’: Dixie Fire wipes out California gold rush town of Greenville

      “There are firefighters getting guns pulled on them because people don’t want to evacuate”, Operations Section Chief, Jeff Cagle, said.  

      After all the discussion on this thread, there are probably many reasons people didn’t want to leave — no insurance (loss of everything not insured), hope that if they stay they can keep the fire at bay for their home, normalcy bias, fear, emotional attachment to home/location, stubbornness, misjudgment of the fire’s rapid spread, fear of getting caught in traffic on small roads.   

      theprepared.com community is thinking about these issues and making plans BEFORE an urgent and immediate need to evacuate is needed.   You are awesome!

      • 3

        Oh man, firefighters being threatened when they’re already on the front lines? That’s messed up.

        During The Valley Fire (2015) I had neighbors who were acting like that. Well ahead of the fire actually arriving, the heat was so fierce that the tires on their vehicles started to melt. They finally drove out on those tires—then on rims—and survived, but the stupid runs deep for some. Firefighters told us later that the houses in our area of Cobb California (including mine) burned to the ground in less than 15 minutes. People have a really hard time understanding just how fast wildfires can spread—76 acres a minute, for example—if a wildfire becomes a firestorm.

        In my wildfire, the Valley, the fire started around 1pm and by early evening had decimated over 10,000 acres and by the next day, 50,000 acres. I had packed my car and cat and was out by 2pm, with some of my neighbors calling me an alarmist. By midnight, our neighborhood was ashes. That fire eventually spread to nearly 80,000 acres.

        And that is why I prep.

      • 4

        @A2 – I would like readers of this thread to read this article from The Press Democrat, 2016, about the difficulties of re-building a year after the wildfire.  Here is the hyperlink:  A year later, Valley fire’s massive toll in Lake County means long, difficult recovery ahead

        In the original post for this forum thread, I posted two hyperlinks to  articles I wrote that were published  in 2018 in the East County Magazine:  “Peace of Mind” 3-10 Minute Evacuation Plan for Wildfires, Part 1, and “Peace of Mind” 3-10 Minute Evacuation Plan for Wildfires, Part 2.  

        The one year follow-up article hyperlink above nicely summarizes the long, difficult recovery after wildfires.    Packing a go-bag is fun, being prepared by knowing how to start fires and boil water with flint and magnesium is fun, learning how to apply a tourniquet is fun.   Learning about and thinking about and planning to be prepared is fun.  Insurance is NOT fun.  Giving up Starbucks, movies, cable,  eating out, buying cheaper cigarettes/wine/beer/soda; none of these things are “fun”.  

        To be truly and honestly prepared to have “Peace of Mind” if you must evacuate during a wildfire isn’t just about having preparedness supplies and the mindset to leave, it’s also about doing the paperwork BEFORE a wildfire.  It’s about trimming your budget, being financially responsible, and waiting to buy guns/bullets/band aids if you cannot afford insurance (renter’s insurance, homeowner insurance, landlord insurance, car insurance, health insurance).   

        I’m totally envious of A2’s pre-packed tear-drop trailer and Bob’s plan to evacuate by boat is needed.  I would love to have a tear-drop trailer and boat that I could pre-pack, park, and be ready to drive away.    Can’t afford it.  It has taken me and my niece 8 years to build up our emergency supplies after the double whammy of the 2003 Cedars Wildfire recovery and rebuild, and then the sudden, catastrophic illness and death of my sister.  These events nearly took everything we had to just stay afloat; there was nothing left to buy Mountain House food or fancy lanterns.   

        In the time between these financial hits, we just hunkered down, did without, and eventually reached a point where savings and purchases of Mountain House food and other supplies became possible.  

        @A2 said above, “And that is why I prep”.  (High five, A2, been there, done that.)

        I say, “That is why I prep and have become an insurance fanatic.”    I am fully aware that we may need to flee a future wildfire and have all of our preparedness supplies destroyed if our homes burn.  I’m ok with that, because I have insurance.

      • 2

        After reading the articles you linked to, it made me realize how prepping is so much more of a need for some than it is for others. 

        People like yourself need to be aware and ready of an evacuation every wildfire season, while others in some safer areas go decades between times when they would have needed their preps. 

        On one side, if you enjoy the hobby and lifestyle of being prepared, you are in a good area because you can put those into action and use them. Others have to go out camping and most of their preparedness is mentally going through what might happen.

        Stay safe out there!!

      • 4

        Total agreement, wildfireexpert. I’ve now lost all physical belongings twice. Then Covid hit, I got it, and now have Long Covid. So I *definitely* know how important home/renters insurance and health insurance is…also, how serious illness can change ones ability to be a self-sufficient. 

        Since I was in my 20s (late middle age, now), I’ve always made two things my primary priorities: (1) home/health insurance and (2) investing a steady percentage of my income. There have been times when those expenditures were very hard to do, but it’s paid off in peace of mind.

        Recovering from life’s devastating events takes a huge emotional toll. So yes, having ones financial planning in place is paramount to recovery.

        IDEA—Have an article on The Prepared that outlines prioritized bare-bone preps for people on slim budgets. (For instance, what brands, and where to buy, good used items when retail just isn’t an option.)

      • 3

        Excellent idea A2, and one I will share with the team.

        To get things kicked off and started, you should start a forum topic about prioritized bare-bone preps for people on slim budgets. I’m sure this community of experts will have some great ideas.

      • 3
      • 1

        You are so awesome! I’m sure it will get lots of good ideas flowing.

      • 1

        Being called “awesome” is very motivating!

    • 4

      I was reading an article this morning which mentioned wildfires and their ability to knock out power lines for entire regions.

      Are there any options for folks who can not afford to go solar or buy a propane-powered generator if their power’s been wiped out for the foreseeable?

      • 5

        Good morning A2,

        Yes, alternative arrangements can be made.

        Depending on specifics, …

        shop around for a couple of additional flash lights, perhaps a small battery-powered lantern and an additional load of batteries. Consider phasing out routine use of refrigerator. There are healthy substitues for those frozen pizzas. All those food jars with requirement “Refrigerate after opening” have substitutes. Eg, some of the almond butter brands do not require refrigeration.  Cream cheese and butter are not critical prepper staples. There are plenty of other products not needing refrigeration.

        Daylight arrives soon enough if no need to evacuate.

        An evacuation neutralizes the UPS generator (UPS = Uninterrupted Power Supply) and the solar panels.

        It can be done because it’s been done before.

        Foot Note: Even in well-funded cities with UPS generators for emergency shelters does not mean they will work. I know from experience.

      • 3

        Thanks, Bob, for getting my brain facing in the right direction.

        Eat through the refrigerator/freezer while we can, then it’s pantry items, including legumes, grains, and dehydrated veggies, then the Mountain House stash.

        Fuel sources, batteries, water, and human waste disposal become critical. Lights are not an issue, we’ve got plenty. Have a small solar array for small electronics; if there’s no sun, there’s the car or there’s reading (depending on need). The CPAP would be an issue.

        I don’t watch tv, though my spouse does. News can be had from the Baofeng and emergency radio.

      • 3

        As for small general power needs, we use a Jackery (and have a small portable solar panel to recharge it).  Even a small one keeps the wi-fi going and lets us recharge lots of stuff.  Our stove is gas so we can cook without electricity. We have a set of solar garden lights that we put outside during the day and bring in at night to spread around for a little bit of lighting. Saving our perishable food is the only really big challenge. As soon as the power goes out, I generally run to Smart & Final and buy a chunk of dry ice to keep some perishables safe for a few days. (Dry ice is quite expensive, so that’s not going to work for a long outage, but it’s been enough to get us through all the preemptive wildfire public safety power outages so far.)

      • 3

        Good evening, Amy

        Thanks for sharing your system. I’ll check them out, too. I live in the Pacific Northwest and we have at least a few days every winter when the power’s out. Sometimes up to a week. Snow is the issue. Branches fall on lines.

        I’ve thought a lot about getting a generator large enough to run our refrigerator, hooked up to a big tank of propane…or public gas. Still toggling on that one. We have a gas range, too…and gas water heater.

      • 2

        The Prepared is working on an article about solar generators like the Jackery that can be quite affordable for many people. I love how they are silent, can be used indoors, and have the potential to run forever with power from the sun. So keep an eye out for that review!

        A2, here’s an older review we did about one particular unit called the Jackery 240. In the review, we are able to run a CPAP off of it over night.

      • 3

        @Gideon Parker.   May I ask how to provide input for the upcoming article?   I am a cpap user for past 16 years.  Although solar products can run some/most cpap for 7 hours or so overnight, the significant problem occurs when user tries to FULLY recharge for SUCCESSIVE nights using ONLY solar.  
        I would be happy to share an alternate way to have weeks of power if user cannot access electrical or use a generator. A system of using deep volt batteries, solar panels,  dc converter specific to your medical equipment, and a quad trickle-charger is what I have.  It took 2 years and a lot of battery and electrical theory study, but it works.   

      • 2

        Thank you for your enthusiasm in wanting to contribute! This particular article will be about small base camp sized units that could potentially be bugged out with in a vehicle along with other gear like the family dog and everyone’s bug out bags.

        Once the article is posted, there will be a comment section where people can throw in questions and suggestions like you are mentioning here of what works for you. 

        Or you can shoot me over your idea and I’ll see if it happens to fit into what we have planned. Gideon (at) this website’s name, is my email. 

    • 2

      I must admit that during my last visit to the US, we visited many areas in Colorado and Wash state / Oregon  and I was both amazed and alarmed to see many home in documented fire risk areas made from wood, or wood cladding and with flammable shingles.  Also many high risk areas with trees right up to the homes, and uncleared fallen scrub ( something to do with protecting a bird I was told) .  Also major and often the ONLY roads in the area with trees right up to the roadside.    Theres probably good reason for all of them but it was just something that got my attention.

      I did see a few homes in KS who had installed external sprinkler systems sometimes fed from swimming pools, used to keep the roof and walls saturated during wild fitres, I thought that was pretty smart but i have no idea how effective they would be.

    • 2

      Very good stuff Wildfireexpert! I read your articles & all the comments & it occurred to me that your time sensitive lists for what to take apply to any evacuation situation with small modifications for event. Thanks so much for sharing!

      • 1

        @CR. Thanks—absolutely true for any emergency situation. 
        doing the “free” things first (pre-arrange meeting places, phone #s, insurance) is absolutely critical.  During the 2003 Cedars wildfire, my neighbor wasn’t able to make contact with her 18 year old son (also my friend) for 13 days!!  Every day we’d check the missing/dead lists.  NEVER want anyone to go through that again.  
        Turns out, he was couch surfing with a friend and it never occurred to him to put his name on a “I’m alive” list. 

      • 1

        What a nightmare for the mom! Kids can be really clueless.