Ten-year-old Amanda Sexton carries her hamster while her father carries two guinea pigs after they fled their Crestline, Calif. home from an approaching wildfire Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2007.

AP Photo/Michael A. Mariant

Protecting Your Family

In order to get your family out safely and calmly during a wildfire, you need to have a strategy in place. It's helpful to create and rehearse a family evacuation plan -- both on how to get everyone safely out of the house (pets included) and how to exit your neighborhood in case roads are blocked.

The adults and all of the older kids in the family should know ahead of time how to shut off all the utilities. You should keep a prepacked emergency kit on hand with plenty of nonperishable foods and a three-day supply of drinking water. You'll also want a portable weather radio, a flashlight and batteries, and a first-aid kit stocked with all necessary medications. It's helpful to have a small tool kit, and you're going to need cash and credit cards, too.

If you get warning that a fire might strike, back your car into the garage to keep it from getting smoky, but keep it facing forward so you can make a quick exit. Close all windows and doors -- garage door included -- but keep everything unlocked. If you get the word you need to evacuate, you need to get out of there immediately, so having a well-rehearsed plan will make the process go much more smoothly. Make sure your house numbers are made of fireproof materials so emergency help can identify and get to your house quickly.