Wallow Fire in 2011 burned 538,000 acres and was the largest in Arizona history. Photo Credit: Rick D’Elia 2011.

Wallow Fire in 2011 burned 538,000 acres and was the largest in Arizona history.

10 Wildfire Safety Tips to Keep Children Safe

A wildfire is an uncontrolled fire often occurring in open areas like forests, fields or parks. Wildfires can begin unnoticed, but they spread quickly – igniting plants, trees and homes. According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), 2020 has already seen 87 large wildland fires which have have burned over 4.7 million acres nationally. In California alone, wildfires have burned more than 3.2 million acres.

This year, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it's even more important to be prepared should an emergency strike. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidance for people living in areas affected by wildfires during the pandemic. Save the Children also offers these tips to show parents what to do if there is a wildfire. 


1. Talk about wildfires.
Spend time with your family discussing why wildfires occur. Explain how to prevent them and what to do if one occurs. Use simple age-appropriate words.

2. Know your risk.
Learn your area's risk of wildfires, particularly if you live near forests, in rural areas, or in a dry climate. Contact your local fire department, state forestry office, or other emergency response agencies for information on fire laws and wildfire risk.

The CDC also notes that wildfire smoke can irritate your lungs, cause inflammation and affect your immune system. This can make you more prone to lung infections, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that cause COVID-19.

3. Learn about caregivers’ disaster plans.
If your child’s school or childcare center is in an area at risk for wildfires, learn their emergency plan and evacuation plan. You may be required to pick up children from another location. Review these plans with your children.

4. Practice evacuation drills.
Practice so that children can evacuate quickly and safely if a wildfire occurs. Plan and practice two ways out of your neighborhood, in case one route is blocked.

Plan for where you may be able to go while still following the CDC's social distancing recommendations. Keep in mind any family members who may be at high risk for COVID-19 and how to keep gatherings to a minimum.

During a Wildfire

5. Stay informed.
If a wildfire is approaching, listen regularly to local radio or TV stations for updated emergency information. Follow the instructions of local officials as they will know safest evacuation route.

6. Have supplies ready.
If you must evacuate, wear protective clothing such as sturdy shoes, long pants (denim, cotton or wool is best) and long-sleeved shirts and gloves. Your emergency to-go back should also include items that can help protect the spread of COVID-19, including hand sanittizer and face masks. 

Lock your home and take a disaster supplies kit with you.

7. Avoid smoke and fumes.
Keep children, babies and infants away from areas where there is smoke or fumes, and stay indoors if possible. Smoke produced by the wildfire may cause breathing problems or contain poisonous toxins.

After a Wildfire

8. Use caution when returning to a burned area.
Get permission from fire officials before returning to a burned area. Look out for hazards such as fallen wires and ash pits and be alert as fire re-ignition may be possible.

9. Clean up safely.
Follow public health guidance on safe cleanup of fire ash and safe use of masks. Keep children away from burned sites until cleanup is complete.

10. Limit media exposure.
Protect children from seeing too many sights and images of the wildfire, including those on the internet, TV or newspapers.

Additional Resources:

American Red Cross (ARC): Wildfire Preparedness
Department of Homeland Security: Wildfires

Department of Homeland Security. Ready Kids: Wildfires


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