9 ways to prepare for wildfire season
Wildfire in Canada

Wildfires usually happen between May - September and can sometimes start earlier in some parts of Canada. They can cause large amounts of damage and put lots of lives in danger. Recently, the number of wildfires has drastically increased. This is partly to do with climate change. So, it’s important to be prepared to protect yourself and your family in case of a wildfire.

How do wildfires start?

There are a couple of ways wildfires can start. In remote areas, wildfires can occur when lightning strikes a tree or another fuel source. Fires can start small and initially go unnoticed, but they can spread very quickly. As they travel across large areas, they ignite brush, trees, homes, and buildings. In populated areas, human-caused fires happen by leaving a campfire burning, smoking, and dropping a cigarette but in dry brush areas. These are usually put out fast but can still cause extensive damage. It’s very important to be careful and comply with fire bans during high-risk periods. Sparks and embers can ignite materials on or near your home causing severe damage.

Did you know? On average in Canada, wildfires burn 2.5 million ha/year, nearly half the size of Nova Scotia.1

How do you prepare for a wildfire?

If you live in an area of Canada prone to wildfires here are 9 ways you can protect yourself and your family from wildfires:

1. Create an emergency preparedness plan
Make sure you and your family are up to date on fire safety procedures. Your plan should include possible exit routes from each room in your home and a safe place to meet if you’re not at home or need to evacuate. Review the “Stop, Drop and Roll” technique in case of clothing catching fire.

TIP: Create an emergency plan and set a yearly calendar reminder to update it if needed. Make sure to review it with everyone in your household.

2. Prepare an emergency supply kit
Have a 72-hour kit ready before a wildfire starts. Your kit should include:

• Water
• Non-perishable foods
• Battery-powered radio
• Flashlight and extra batteries
• First aid kit
• Sturdy shoes for each family member
• Identification
• Cash
• Special needs items like prescription medications

Check out the Government of Canada’s website to get ideas on how to build your emergency supply kit.

3. Protect your home
Manage the risk to your home with fireproofing maintenance. Here are a few key tips on how to do this, plus you can always reach out to your local fire department for help:

• Use flame resistant materials (roofing, exterior walls, balconies, and decks)
• Keep eaves clear of debris
• Put non-combustible 3mm screens on external vents (except for dryer vents) to keep embers out
• Inspect vents and openings regularly to ensure they are in good shape and remove any collected combustible debris

4. Manage the space around your home
Keeping your lawn well-maintained and watered is a good start. Remove any fire hazards around your yard like dead trees, branches, leaves, and debris. Don’t forget to clear beneath decks and porches too. You might also want to remove any trees or shrubbery within 10 meters of your home.2

5. Prepare a detailed home inventory
Take inventory (and photos) of your furniture and belongings. This will be invaluable in the event damages occur. Check out tips on proof of ownership and how to make a detailed home inventory list.

6. Maintain smoke detectors
Smoke detectors are required by law in Canada. Make sure your home is equipped with functioning smoke detectors on every floor. According to the manufacturer’s instructions, you should: check, test, and clean them regularly. Check the requirements based on the province you live in, but it’s also recommended that CO detectors should be installed in all residential buildings that contain a fuel-burning appliance, a fireplace, or a storage garage.

7. Report any wildfires
If a fire approaches your home, you should report it by calling 9-1-1. Any information you can provide is helpful, such as:

• Location
• Size
• Rate of spread
• What is burning
• Colour of the smoke/flames

8. Stay informed
Make sure to keep up to date with all the local new or reports:

• Monitor weather, listen to local authorities and prepare to evacuate
• Check the Canadian Wildland Fire Information System (CWFIS) website or social media for updates, instructions, and information about road closures
• Follow instructions to evacuate and bring your emergency kit
• Only re-enter your home when instructed by officials and community leaders

Did you know? The CWFIS is a fire management information system that monitors fire danger conditions across Canada. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it includes an interactive fire map and up-to-date reports on fire situations across Canada.

9. Know the difference between an evacuation alert and an evacuation order
An evacuation alert is a warning that you should be ready to leave the area on short notice. It’s up to you whether you want to evacuate.

An evacuation order is issued by local or provincial police, and you should leave the area immediately.

What happens after a wildfire?

We know coming home after a wildfire can be difficult. Damages to your home and/or property are usually unknown until you return. Listen to authorities to find out when it is safe to return and use caution when re-entering a burned area.

Make sure to contact your insurance company if you need to start a claim. It’s best to be as detailed as possible when providing any information. List all damaged or destroyed items. If safe and possible, collect proof of purchases, photos, receipts, and warranties. Take photos of any damages and keep damaged items unless they pose a health risk. Keep all receipts for any clean up and living expenses. Ask your insurance company about what expenses you may be entitled to and for how long.

Does my insurance cover damage that’s caused by wildfires?

Most home and tenant insurance policies cover damage caused by fire, even if the fire begins on a neighbouring property. If you’re unable to live in your home because of wildfire damage, your policy should provide coverage for additional living expenses for a specified period. Damage to vehicles from fire or water is usually covered if you have comprehensive or all-perils auto insurance. This coverage is not mandatory, so check your policy to see what you’re covered for.

Protect your home and the things you love most. Wildfires: Information & Facts Wildfire Safety: What You Need To Know