Up in flames: How to prepare for deadly forest fires

Smokey Bear is right: Forest fire prevention starts with you. Here's what to know.

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  1. Are there liabilities with wildfires? Find out this week on radiolawtalk.com! #wildfires #CAfires #CaliforniaWildfires
    Are there liabilities with wildfires? Find out this week on radiolawtalk.com! #wildfires #CAfires #CaliforniaWildfires
  2. Whether you call them wildfires, forest fires or brush fires, they are all dangerous fires that rage out of control in the wilderness. Wildfires are a growing natural hazard across the United States, threatening life and property.
  3. Recent fires in southern California threaten homes and lives across the region.
  4. CARPINTERIA, CA - DECEMBER 10: People watch as the Thomas Fire advances toward Santa Barbara County seaside communities on December 10, 2017 in Carpinteria, California. The Thomas Fire has grown to 173,000 acres and destroyed at least 754 structures so far. Strong Santa Ana winds have been feeding major wildfires all week, destroying houses and forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate.  (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
    CARPINTERIA, CA - DECEMBER 10: People watch as the Thomas Fire advances toward Santa Barbara County seaside communities on December 10, 2017 in Carpinteria, California. The Thomas Fire has grown to 173,000 acres and destroyed at least 754 structures so far. Strong Santa Ana winds have been feeding major wildfires all week, destroying houses and forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
  5. According to the National Park Service, human activity causes 90 percent of wildfires in the United States. Some human-induced fires result from unattended campfires, burning of debris, improperly discarded cigarettes and intentional acts of arson. Although less common, wildfires can ignite through lightning or lava.
  6. Wildfires may occur anywhere at any moment, but risk is always higher throughout dry periods with little or no rainfall, which make brush, grass and trees dry and burn more easily. In the event of a wildfire, hot and dry conditions increase the likelihood that they will become more intense and long-burning.
  7. Drought also has the potential to increase the likelihood of wildfires. Over the summer, drought conditions across Montana sparked many wildfires and burned over 1 million acres of land. In early September, the growing threat of wildfires caused the governor of Washington to declare a state of emergency.
  8. October marked the beginning of the fall fire season in California. So far, recent wildfires in Northern California have destroyed 8,400 homes and killed 42 people, making them the most catastrophic in state history.
  9. Wildfire seasons ― seasons with higher wildfire potential ― in the United States are going to be longer, with the southwest’s fire season lengthening from seven months to all year long. Wildfires aren't just going to be more frequent, they are also likely to become more severe.
  10. The National Interagency Fire Center has predicted an above-normal fire potential for Northern California, Hawaii, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, Oklahoma, north-central Texas and the Northern Rockies region.
  11. Why are more areas at risk? Studies have shown that human-caused global warming had nearly doubled the area of forest fires across the country since 1984. APHA’s Year of Climate Change and Health is sharing a ton of information on extreme weather and how it will impact our health.
  12. Because people are moving into areas at increased risk of naturally occurring fires, they're facing more dangers. Firefighters even have a name for the conditions where housing is built on or near lands that are prone to wildfires: Wildland-Urban Interface.
  13. Wildfires pose a number of health threats, such as burns and smoke inhalation, which can cause coughing, shortness of breath, headaches, chest pain and dangerous medical complications in people who have respiratory illnesses.
  14. Did you know that as many as 80 percent of the homes lost to wildfires could have been saved if their owners had followed simple fire-safe practices? In addition, wildfire-related deaths often occur because people wait too long to evacuate their homes. That's why it is important to know what to do before and during the onset of a wildfire.
  15. How to prepare for a wildfire:

  16. The first step in protecting you and your family from wildfires is to gather as much information as possible. Know your wildfire risk and find out about previous activity in your neighborhood. Turn on your TV or radio for the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
  17. Think about how you will stay informed if there is a power outage. Have extra batteries for a battery-operated radio, and consider having a hand crank radio and cellphone charger.
  18. Know your warnings! A "Fire Weather Watch" means that dangerous fire weather conditions are possible over the next 12 to 72 hours. A "Red Flag Warning" means that there is high risk of severe fire weather. Your community may also use the National Fire Danger Rating System to provide a daily estimate of the fire danger.
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