Extreme droughts and changing climates mean wildfires are the new normal, and homeowners should be prepared. The Western United States is currently experiencing a megadrought — trending to be the worst in a 1,200-year period analyzed in a recent study out of Columbia University — that is expected to ignite an intense and early wildfire season.
While almost half of the country is experiencing worsening drought conditions, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, one state in particular is really heating up. “The reality is in California, this drought is going to get worse before it gets better,” says Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA who contributed to a 2020 study that found climate change is increasing the likelihood of extreme wildfire conditions across California.
Here’s what you should know to prepare yourself, your family and your home for wildfires.
Safety should be your first priority. The American Red Cross recommends people tune in to local radio or TV stations to stay informed on wildfires in the area and have an evacuation plan.
Be sure to also have an emergency kit packed and ready. “If you have to evacuate, chances are you’re not going to have much notice,” says Nicole Maul, regional communications director for the American Red Cross. Maul recommends filling a backpack with essentials like water, a first-aid kit, a flashlight, a hand-crank radio and some extra cash.