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Fire emergency preparedness

Learn more about preparing for fires.

Resources on dealing with wildfire smoke can be found here.

King County, like other places in our country, experiences frequent fires. About one-third of all fires occur in residential properties; one-third involve natural vegetation; and the remaining third involve vehicles, outside equipment and storage, and other locations. Most fires are human-caused and are preventable. Only a small percentage of fires are caused by natural forces such as lightning.

In order for a fire to occur, three elements in the right combination are required:

  1. Heat or ignition sources
  2. Fuel
  3. Oxygen

Structure fires: a fire of natural or human-caused origin that results in the destruction of homes, businesses, and other structures in populated, urban, or suburban areas.

Wildland fires: a fire of natural or human-caused origin that results in the uncontrolled destruction of forests, field crops, and grasslands.

Wildland-urban interface fires: a fire of natural or human-caused origin that occurs in or near forest or grassland areas where isolated homes, subdivisions, and small communities are located. These fires can start as, or grow into, a structure or wildland fire.

Fire hazards present a very real risk for residents and businesses in King County. We must be vigilant, prepare, and mitigate these hazards in our region and surrounding counties.

Learn more about wildfires in our video below:

Ready, Set, Go! Evacuation Levels

Due to climate change, the risk of wildfires has spread to the west side of the Cascades, which has traditionally been immune to these life and property-threatening hazards. What was once a rare occurrence, wildfire season has now become an annual time of year to recognize the risks and prepare resources for the inevitable. The Ready, Set, Go! evacuation campaign educates the public on how to respond to the three levels of evacuations (traditionally Levels 1, 2, and 3), and prepares them on the actions they should take at each level when alerted by authorities.

This evacuation program is intended to be utilized for an all-hazards evacuation approach with an initial emphasis on fire.

King County evacuation levels poster

King County Wildfire Strategy Report

How to prepare for fires

Structure fires

  • Learn how to prevent fires in and around your home and office. Common causes include: cooking, smoking, heaters, candles, electrical, arson, and children playing with matches.
  • Install and maintain smoke detectors on every level of your home, and near bedrooms. Most fatal fires happen at night while you're sleeping and you will not smell smoke, even if you are a light sleeper.
  • Have a fire extinguisher available. Know when and how to use it.
  • Know where exits are and the evacuation procedures for your home, office, and school. Plan and physically practice a home escape plan.
  • Provide escape ladders for floors above ground level. Practice using them.
  • Designate an outside meeting place for your family and co-workers to meet once you're out. A good place may be a safe distance from the front of your home or building.
  • Make sure fire vehicles can get to your home by clearly marking all driveway entrances and displaying your address.

Wildland fires

  • Learn about your area's wildland fire risk and how to make your home and property more fire resistant. Contact your local fire department for information on burn bans, burning regulations, and defensible space practices for making your home more fire resistant.
  • Build fires away from nearby trees or bushes. Embers and firebrands can float in the air and start fires where they fall. Extinguish small fires quickly and completely using water, sand, and/or a fire extinguisher.
  • Plan two escape routes out of your neighborhood and establish a meeting place for family members to reconnect.
  • When a wildfire threatens and you are advised to evacuate, you won't have time to shop or search for supplies. Assemble an emergency supply kit with the items you'll need for a few days.
  • Make arrangements for housing with friends or extended family should you need to leave your home.