From Tahoe Network of Fire Adapted Communities
One of the first steps to being prepared for a wildfire is to understand what wildfire warnings and alerts mean.
Issued by different agencies, sometimes wildfire alert terminology can be confusing. Do you know the difference between a Fire Weather Watch and a Red Flag Warning? What about the difference between an evacuation warning and an evacuation order?
Red Flag Warning
The National Weather Service issues Red Flag Warnings during weather conditions that could lead to extreme fire behavior within the next 24 hours.
Such conditions include high and sustained wind speeds (averaging 15 mph or greater), low relative humidity (25 percent or less) and temperatures greater than 75 degrees.
During these events, extreme caution is advised. All sources of outdoor flames are prohibited during Red Flag days, including propane and charcoal.
Fire Weather Watch
The National Weather Service issues a Fire Weather Watch 12 to 72 hours in advance of hazardous weather conditions. It means critical fire weather is possible but not imminent or occurring. The watch remains in effect until it expires, is canceled, or upgraded to a Red Flag Warning.
Both Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches call for extreme caution. Stay up to date with local fire district’s seasonal restrictions and never use fire when and where it’s not allowed.
Wildfire Evacuation Alerts
If a wildfire ignited during a Red Flag Warning or a Fire Weather Watch, you should know the correct evacuation terminology in case the fire is life-threatening.
Issued by local law enforcement, evacuation orders and evacuation warnings both suggest a threat to life and property, although they are slightly different.
Evacuation Order | An evacuation order is mandatory. It suggests there is an immediate threat to life, and it is a lawful order to leave. When this type of order is issued, everyone in the given evacuation zone must exit as the zone will be legally closed to the public until further notice.
Never ignore an evacuation order. Doing so puts not only your life at risk, but also the lives of law enforcement and fire personnel.
Evacuation Warning | An evacuation warning suggests a potential threat to life. Evacuation isn’t mandatory at this point, although it is advised and preparation is necessary.
Those who require additional time to evacuate (such as elderly, disabled and large families with pets and livestock) should leave during a warning. In many instances, evacuation warnings quickly become evacuation orders. | tahoelivingwithfire.com
- Check current fire conditions & Red Flag warnings
- Find fire districts around Lake Tahoe
- Find tips for being prepared
Read our 3rd Annual Wildfire Preparedness Guide