In 2020, there were 9,917 wildfires with a total of 4,257,863 acres burned in California. View the resources below to better prepare and protect yourself during the upcoming fire season.
This resource page is designed to help bring awareness to the dangers of wildfires in Northern, Central, and Southern California and provide helpful education & resources for the public.
Current California Wildfire Map for Today
This is an interactive, early warning notification map. This is NOT intended to be an evacuation map and is meant to provide general awareness.
This map updates regularly and uses government and other 3rd party data to provide non-incident specific data.
NOTE! This is not an evacuation map. If you are told to evacuate, then GO! Do not rely on this map as an excuse to ignore an order to evacuate.
What to do during a wildfire?
View our resource list to find out what the best actions to take during a wildfire.
Check for evacuation or pre-evacuation orders from authorized sources and evacuate or prepare to evacuate if authorities advise you to do so.
Below is a list of resources you can check to see if your area has an evacuation order.
- Visit the wildfire incidents page
- Local Police and Fire Departments websites or social media accounts.
If you see a wildfire, call 911 to report it to authorities.
It’s best to allow local authorities to handle any active wildfire situation. Try not to contact local authorities (unless the wildfire is not reported yet) as this may add congestion to phone lines and prevent those in need from getting help.
During the 2020 fire season, Cal Fire warned civilians to not help since they do not have the necessary training and often end up needing help themselves.
Putting together a Wildfire Plan
Being prepared is critical to improving your safety and preparedness during wildfires. Review this section to learn how to put together an effective wildfire plan.
Cal Fire has put together a PDF with useful tips on how to harden and prepare your home for wildfires.
Create an evacuation
plan that includes:
- A designated emergency meeting location
outside the fire or hazard area. This is critical
to determine who has safely evacuated from
the affected area.
- Several different escape routes from your
home and community. Practice these often
so everyone in your family is familiar in case
- Have an evacuation plan for pets and large
animals such as horses and other livestock.
- A family communication plan that designates
an out-of-area friend or relative as a point
of contact to act as a single source of
communication among family members in
case of separation. (It is easier to call or
message one person and let them contact
others than to try and call everyone when
phone, cell, and internet systems can be
overloaded or limited during a disaster.)
Before evacuation is necessary, follow these steps before it’s time to GO!
- Create a Wildfire Action Plan for your family. Being ready to go also means knowing when to evacuate and what to do if you become trapped.
- Complete the pre-evacuation preparation steps (only if time allows) to increase your home’s defense.
- Make sure you monitor wildfires in your area and know your community’s emergency response plan, evacuation orders and evacuation centers.
- Have fire extinguishers on hand and
train your family how to use them.
(Check expiration dates regularly.)
- Ensure that your family knows where your
gas, electric, and water main shut-off controls
are located and how to safely shut them
down in an emergency.
- Assemble an Emergency Supply Kit for each
person, as recommended by the American
Red Cross. (See next section for details.)
- Maintain a list of emergency contact
numbers posted near your phone and in
your emergency supply kit.
- Keep an extra emergency supply kit in your
car in case you cannot get to your home
because of fire or other emergency.
- Have a portable radio or scanner so you
can stay updated on the fire.
- Tell your neighbors about your Wildfire Action Plan.
How to Prepare to Evacuate from a Wildfire
Evacuation plans for families with young children should include helping toddlers understand how to quickly respond in case of fire, and how adults can escape with babies. Prepare ahead of time by practicing your family’s fire escape plan, and what to do to be safe when there is a wildfire nearby.
It is important to talk to toddlers and small children at a level that they understand and that does not frighten. Here are a few resources that offer guides and tips for families with young children about fire safety and preparing for a disaster:
- A Parent’s Guide to Fire Safety for Babies and Toddlers : The U.S. Fire Administration’s information site for parents and caregivers to help prevent fire death of young children.
- Let’s Get Ready! Planning Together for Emergencies : Sesame Workshop campaign with tips, activities, and other easy tools to help the whole family prepare for emergencies.
- Ready.gov Kids : FEMA’s site for older kids to prepare and plan for a disaster. Includes safety steps, tips, and games to help children learn about and be ready for an emergency.
- Smokey Kids : U.S. Forest Service’s interactive Smokey Bear site with games, information and resources on how to prevent forest fires.
Preparing Seniors and Disabled Family Members
Seniors and people with disabilities also need special consideration when preparing for a disaster. Below are several resources that help individuals and families with special needs plan and prepare for an event such as a wildfire.
- Special Populations Fire-Safe Checklist : U.S. Fire Administration’s fire safety guide for individuals with special needs to help them protect themselves and their home from fire.
- Disaster Preparedness for Senior by Seniors : The American Red Cross booklet designed by and for older adults to prepare them for a sudden emergency.
- Disaster Preparedness for People with Disabilities : American Red Cross Disaster Services booklet with information and resources to help people with physical, visual, auditory, or cognitive disabilities design a personal disaster plan.
- Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities and Other Vulnerable Populations : Inclusive Preparedness Center website with information and resources for emergency planning.
- Personal Preparedness Guide : Resource site for people with disabilities that gives information on necessary supplies, evacuation procedures and how to assist pets and service animals in the event of a disaster.
Wildfire Evacuation & Supply Checklist
This is a checklist of items to take with you in preparation for evacuation and other wildfire related emergencies.
- Review your Evacuation Plan Checklist.
- Ensure your Emergency Supply Kit/Evacuation Bag is in your vehicle.
- Cover-up to protect against heat and flying embers. Wear long pants, long sleeve shirt, heavy shoes/boots, cap, dry bandanna or face masks for face cover, goggles or glasses. 100% cotton is preferable.
- Locate your pets and take them with you.
Cal Fire recommends 6 “P’s” in case of an immediate evacuation.
• People and pets
• Papers, phone numbers, & important documents
• Prescriptions, vitamins, and eyeglasses
• Pictures and irreplaceable memorabilia
• Personal computer hard drive and disks
• “Plastic” (credit cards, ATM cards) and cash
- Face masks or coverings (ideally masks that can filter smoke particles)
- Three-day supply of non-perishable food and three gallons of water per person
- Map marked with at least two evacuation routes
- Prescriptions or special medications
- Change of clothing
- Extra eyeglasses or contact lenses
- An extra set of car keys, credit cards, cash or traveler’s checks
- First aid kit
- Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
- Sanitation supplies
- Copies of important documents (birth certificates, passports, etc.)
- Don’t forget pet food and water!
Supplies to take if time allows and your safety is not at risk:
- Easily carried valuables
- Family photos and other irreplaceable items
- Personal computer information on hard
drives and disks
- Chargers for cell phones, laptops, etc.
Cal Fire Ready-Set-Go Video & Promotion Posters
How to Reduce Wildfires
Defensible space is the buffer you create between a building on your property and the grass, trees, shrubs, or any wildland area that surround it.
This space is needed to slow or stop the spread of wildfire and it helps protect your home from catching fire—either from embers, direct flame contact or radiant heat.
Proper defensible space also provides firefighters a safe area to work in, to defend your home.
Zones 1 and 2 currently make up the 100 feet of defensible space required by law.
Assembly Bill 3074, passed into law in 2020, requires a third zone for defensible space. This law requires the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection to develop the regulation for a new ember-resistant zone (Zone 0) within 0 to 5 feet of the home by January 1, 2023.
The intensity of wildfire fuel management varies within the 100-foot perimeter of the home, with more intense fuels’ reduction occurring closer to your home. Start at the home and work your way out to 100 feet or to your property line, whichever is closer.
Zone 0 extends 5 feet from buildings, structures, decks, etc
The ember-resistant zone is currently not required by law, but science has proven it to be the most important of all the defensible space zones. This zone includes the area under and around all attached decks, and requires the most stringent wildfire fuel reduction. The ember-resistant zone is designed to keep fire or embers from igniting materials that can spread the fire to your home. The following provides guidance for this zone, which may change based on the regulation developed by the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection.
- Use hardscape like gravel, pavers, concrete and other noncombustible mulch materials. No combustible bark or mulch
- Remove all dead and dying weeds, grass, plants, shrubs, trees, branches and vegetative debris (leaves, needles, cones, bark, etc.); Check your roofs, gutters, decks, porches, stairways, etc.
- Remove all branches within 10 feet of any chimney or stovepipe outlet
- Limit plants in this area to low growing, nonwoody, properly watered and maintained plants
- Limit combustible items (outdoor furniture, planters, etc.) on top of decks
- Relocate firewood and lumber to Zone 2
- Replace combustible fencing, gates, and arbors attach to the home with noncombustible alternatives
- Consider relocating garbage and recycling containers outside this zone
- Consider relocating boats, RVs, vehicles and other combustible items outside this zone
Zone 1 extends 30 feet from buildings, structures, decks, etc. or to your property line, whichever is closer.
- Remove all dead plants, grass and weeds (vegetation).
- Remove dead or dry leaves and pine needles from your yard, roof and rain gutters.
- Remove branches that hang over your roof and keep dead branches 10 feet away from your chimney.
- Trim trees regularly to keep branches a minimum of 10 feet from other trees.
- Relocate wood piles to Zone 2.
- Remove or prune flammable plants and shrubs near windows.
- Remove vegetation and items that could catch fire from around and under decks, balconies and stairs.
- Create a separation between trees, shrubs and items that could catch fire, such as patio furniture, wood piles, swing sets, etc.
Zone 2 extends from 30 feet to 100 feet out from buildings, structures, decks, etc. or to your property line, whichever is closer.
- Cut or mow annual grass down to a maximum height of 4 inches.
- Create horizontal space between shrubs and trees. (See diagram)
- Create vertical space between grass, shrubs and trees. (See diagram)
- Remove fallen leaves, needles, twigs, bark, cones, and small branches. However, they may be permitted to a depth of 3 inches.
- All exposed wood piles must have a minimum of 10 feet of clearance, down to bare mineral soil, in all directions.
Zone 1 and 2
- “Outbuildings” and Liquid Propane Gas (LPG) storage tanks shall have 10 feet of clearance to bare mineral soil and no flammable vegetation for an additional 10 feet around their exterior.
Many local government agencies have local ordinances for defensible space or weed abatement. These local ordinances will often be more stringent than the State’s minimum requirements listed above (e.g., San Diego County requires 50 feet of clearance in Zone 1). Check with your local fire department or fire protection district for any additional defensible space or weed abatement ordinance requirements.
The spacing between grass, shrubs, and trees is crucial to reduce the spread of wildfires. The spacing needed is determined by the type and size of brush and trees, as well as the slope of the land. For example, a property on a steep slope with larger vegetation requires greater spacing between trees and shrubs than a level property that has small, sparse vegetation.
Remove all tree branches at least 6 feet from the ground.
Allow extra vertical space between shrubs and trees. Lack of vertical space can allow a fire to move from the ground to the brush to the treetops like a ladder. This leads to more intense fire closer to your home.
Horizontal spacing depends on the slope of the land and the height of the shrubs or trees. Check the chart below to determine spacing distance.
Proper landscaping for wildfire isn’t necessarily the same thing as a well-maintained yard. This type of landscaping focuses on plant characteristics, properties and maintenance to resist the spread of fire to your home.
The good news is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to make your landscape wildfire resilient and reduce the risk to your home.
Through proper planning and routine maintenance, you can conserve water and create a beautiful landscape.
Seasonal Wildfire Reduction
- Check property for dead or bark beetle-infested trees.
- Weather permitting, now is the best time to remove those trees and dense undergrowth.
- Trim up trees for vertical clearance as part of your home’s defensible space. If not feasible in winter then plan now to do so when weather permits.
- If you’re planting trees this spring, plan ahead now and plant locally native trees.
- Prepare defensible space.
- Remove dead and bark beetle-infested trees.
- Bark beetles are most active now and in summer—be careful not to damage remaining trees as fresh wood attracts beetles.
- If possible, remove freshly cut wood. Otherwise, cover, lop or chip infested wood—and do not place near healthy trees.
- Following an extended period of little to no rain, sparingly water high-value trees. Use best watering practices.
- Now is the time to plant new trees, as long as irrigation is available.
- Remove dead and dying trees.
- Follow spring guidelines as beetles are very active in summer as well.
- Be especially careful with power tools—one spark can start a wildfire. If planting trees in fall, plan ahead now and plant locally native trees.
- If planting trees, wait until the weather cools and fall rains have increased soil moisture.
- Now is one of the best times to remove dead and dying trees, and dense undergrowth.
- Water high-value trees only if significantly less than average rainfall this season; otherwise, do not water.
What To Do After a Wildfire
Coming home after a wildfire can be difficult. The damage is often unknown until the homeowner returns days or weeks later.
Before returning home ALWAYS check with officials before attempting to return to your home. Once home check for the following:
- Check grounds for hot spots, smoldering stumps, and vegetation.
- Check the roof and exterior areas for sparks or embers.
- Check the attic and throughout your house for any hidden burning sparks or embers.
- Check for fire damage to your home, turn off all appliances and make sure the meter is not damaged before turning on the main circuit breaker.
- Check the well or pump-house to ensure it is in working order.
- Contact 911 if any danger is perceived.
- Consult local experts on the best way to restore and plant your land with fire-safe landscaping.
The after effects of a wildfire on watershed can be drastic causing immediate issues and long term effects. Rates of erosion and runoff can increase to dangerous levels following wildfires in California. Normally trees, shrubs, grass and other protective groundcover help prevent soil detachment and allow rainfall to infiltrate into the soil. After a wildfire the extreme heat can bake the soil to the point that water is unable to penetrate and can cause excessive run off in a post wildfire area.
Before leaving a burned area, CAL FIRE will implement post-fire suppression repair efforts. This work includes:
- Installing waterbars (ditches cut at an angle into the soil) on dozer firelines.
- Removing soil and organic debris from streams where fire lines crossed, and mulching fire line approaches where appropriate.
- Bringing road drainage structures back to pre-fire condition.
- Treating/reducing large concentrations of downed trees (slash) near roads and structures.
- Repairing damaged land improvements (e.g., water pipes, fences, gates) related to suppression activities.
- Addressing public safety issues, such as flagging/marking hazard trees threatening roads or structures for removal by professional fallers, and mapping/reporting downed power and phone lines.
Following selected wildfires, California state Watershed Emergency Response Teams (WERTs) are deployed to conduct post-fire assessments.
- WERTs identify types and locations of threats to life-safety and property (i.e., collectively known as “Values-at-Risk” or VARs) from debris flows, flooding, rockfall, and surface erosion that are elevated due to wildfire.
- WERT members develop preliminary emergency protection measures for the identified locations, and communicate the findings to responsible local emergency management agencies.
Local jurisdictions may be able to obtain funding for implementation of emergency protection measures and mitigation projects from FEMA or the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). This work may include installation of structure protection for identified Values-at-Risk, such as K-rails, sand bags, and Muscle Wall.
Even with these efforts, post fire communities are still at risk and need to be prepared for flood, debris flows, mud (hyperconcentrated) flows, and surface erosion.
Before cleaning up following a wildfire:
- Start a list of damaged belongings, document damage with photographs, and contact your insurance provider.
- Decide whether to (a) participate in a government-run debris removal program, which requires signing a right-of-entry form; (b) hire a private contractor for debris removal at your expense; or (c) conduct debris cleanup yourself.
Key considerations for determining which approach to use include:
- Utilizing a government-run debris removal program will result in no initial out-of-pocket expenses for homeowners, whereas using a private contractor will result in large expense, which may be completely or partially covered by homeowners’ insurance policies.
- Government-run debris removal programs often utilize a two-phase approach (for an example, visit: Sonoma County Recovers
- Phase I removes household hazardous waste that may pose a threat to human health (e.g., batteries, asbestos siding, paints). Phase I is required for all residential properties participating in the program.
- Phase II removes debris and conducts property clean-up work. This includes removal of all burnt debris, foundations, hazardous trees, and contaminated soil to ensure the site is safe for building. Participation in the government run debris removal program is encouraged but optional.
- Government-run debris removal programs strive to get the work completed quickly, reducing impacts from fall storm events to surface water and groundwater resources.
- Use of government-run programs and private contractors prevent homeowners from being exposed to toxic materials during the debris removal process.
- It is likely that work done by a private contractor or the homeowner will be required to meet or exceed the standards set by local, state and federal agencies.
- Phase II of the government-run debris removal program generally includes removal of the house’s foundation.
STATE OF CALIFORNIA PROGRAMS
California offers many relevant state programs to aid in disaster recovery, some of which are described in this section.
2-1-1 Free Information Referral Center
2-1-1 is not specific to post-wildfire situations. It is a regional, free information and referral center connecting residents to community resources located in their area. 2-1-1 has several regions in California.
California Environmental Protection Agency
The Environmental Protection Agency can provide technical assistance to responders in identifying and assessing any disaster-related hazardous waste or pollution threats.
Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC)
Upon request by a state or local agency, DTSC may dispatch emergency response contractors to address imminent hazards. Local agencies should follow procedures in place for requesting emergency assistance in disaster situations (for example, the county must contact the OES Regional Emergency Operations Center and request assistance).
California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)
Debris left from a wildfire may be large and can create public health and safety issues. CalRecycle’s goal is to assist in properly managing disposal of debris from a natural disaster. CalRecycle partners with local jurisdictions in the development of debris management plans to recycle, reuse, or otherwise divert disaster debris from disposal.
California Department of Food and Agriculture
Coordinates with private sector organizations dedicated to providing food, water, shelter and care to animals/livestock. It also provides information on appropriate, available fairgrounds that may be activated as human and/or animal mass care shelters.
California Department of Transportation
Emergency Relief Program
The Federal Transit Administration’s Emergency Relief Program helps state and public transportation systems pay for protecting, repairing, or replacing equipment and facilities that may suffer or have suffered serious damage as a result of an emergency, including natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes. The program can fund capital projects to protect, repair, or replace facilities or equipment that are in danger of suffering serious damage, or have suffered serious damage as a result of an emergency. The program can also fund the operating costs of evacuation, rescue operations, temporary public transportation service, or reestablishing, expanding, or relocating service before, during, or after an emergency.
California Department of Housing and Community Development
Community Development Block Grants (Disaster Recovery Assistance)
When major disasters occur, Congress may appropriate additional funding for the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) program as Disaster Recovery grants to rebuild the affected areas and bring crucial seed money to stimulate the recovery process. Because CDBG funds a broad range of activities, CDBG Disaster Recovery assistance helps communities and neighborhoods that otherwise might not recover due to limited resources. For more information call 916 263-2771 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
California Health and Human Services Agency
Administration on Aging
A portion of state and community program funds may be used to provide technical services and reimbursement to state and tribal organizations for expenses incurred for services to the elderly during a presidentially declared disaster.
California Office of Emergency Services: Hazard Mitigation Grant Program
As the result of a Presidential Disaster Declaration, FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds plans and projects that reduce the effects of future natural disasters. In California, these funds are administered by the CalOES Hazard Mitigation Grant Program Unit. Eligible applicants include state agencies, local governments, special districts, and some private nonprofits.
Employment Development Department
If the President of the United States declares a disaster in your area, payment of Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) may be authorized. Individuals who become unemployed as a result of the disaster, and who do not qualify for regular Unemployment Insurance benefits, may file for DUA.
Department of Social Services
Disaster CalFresh (D-CalFresh), known at the federal level as the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or D-SNAP, is a way to meet the temporary nutritional needs of disaster victims within a 30-day period following a natural disaster. D-CalFresh provides a month’s worth of benefits on an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card which can be used to purchase food at authorized retail stores. D-CalFresh is only available when all of the following elements occur:
A Presidential Declaration for Individual Assistance has been declared in the affected area Commercial channels of food distribution have been disrupted and those commercial channels have been restored, and The State of California has been approved to operate a D-CalFresh program and the affected county has submitted a request to the California Department of Social Services. CalFresh Benefits Helpline: 1-877-847-3663
The Federal Government offers several resources for assistance after a disaster.
FEMA Housing Assistance
The first step toward getting housing assistance is to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Go online to DisasterAssistance.gov or call the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362, (TTY) 800-462-7585. Once you have registered, FEMA will arrange for an inspector to look at your home.
Other FEMA Resources Include:
Disasters Legal Services
Helping Children Cope with Disaster
Medical, dental and funeral expense help
USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance
The Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) may help you replace food lost in a disaster or help you apply for D-SNAP benefits online. An expedited D-SNAP program for disasters exists to provide benefits within seven days. For more information, call 1-800-283-4465. In California, D-SNAP is administered by the Department of Social Services.