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Canadian wildfires have burned more than 100,000 square kilometres so far this year, breaking the country’s record set in 1989, when 76,000 square kilometres were burned.

In response to the wildfires, more than 150,000 people have been forced to leave their homes.

Being prepared is the best way to help you and your family stay safe should wildfires threaten your home this year. With so many new wildfire-related terms being used that many have not heard before, here’s a breakdown of key notifications to be aware of and tips for how to prepare.

What is an evacuation alert?

An evacuation alert means you need to be prepared to leave on short notice, should conditions in your area worsen.

The government of British Columbia says this is the time to get your grab-and-go bags, an emergency plan, copies of important documents and mementoes ready.

Listen to local emergency officials for further information on the situation. Information is shared on radio and television stations, and across government websites and social media channels.

What is an evacuation order?

An evacuation order means you are at risk and must leave the area immediately using the route or routes identified by officials.

Evacuation orders are mandatory and enforced by local authorities or the RCMP.

Evacuation orders are communicated through emergency alerts on mobile devices and across radio and television stations.

Some provinces encourage communities under evacuation order to register. In Alberta, people under evacuation order should register online or at a local reception centre. In Yukon, people can call Emergency Support services at 867-332-459 for assistance. People in B.C. under evacuation order or alert should register online.

Evacuation orders are in place until they have been rescinded.

Wildfire maps 2023: Tracking fires and air quality across Canada

What is evacuation rescind?

Once local officials determine a wildfire situation is safe, the evacuation will be rescinded and residents can return home.

What to pack when or before the evacuation alert comes

According to the Prepared B.C. Wildfire Preparedness Guide, when people are placed under an alert they should gather their grab-and-go bags, emergency plan, cherished mementos and copies of important documents at the front door or pack them in their vehicle.

The guide features a basic packing list, which includes bottled water, ready-to-eat food, a flashlight, radio, batteries and a small first-aid kit. B.C. also recommends packing several days’ clothing, medicine and prescriptions, comfort items for children like a favourite toy or colouring books to keep them busy, and leashes, carriers and food for pets.

Rob de Pruis, the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s national director of consumer and industry relations, says people should make sure they bring insurance documents for their home, vehicle and any other items they may have insured, such as a boat or trailer. He also encouraged people to take photos or video of every room and to document everything inside and outside their home. That way, if their home is severely damaged in fires, they will have a record of what they have lost.

What happens to livestock when a rancher is ordered to evacuate due to fire?

What are the stages of wildfire maintenance?

The governments of Nova Scotia and British Columbia outline the different terms for wildfire status:

  • Out of control: A wildfire that is continuing to spread and not responding to efforts to slow or stop its spread.
  • Being held: A wildfire that is not likely to spread beyond determined boundaries under current weather conditions and assigned resources.
  • Under control: A wildfire that has been suppressed enough that it won’t spread further. At this stage, suppression efforts have ensured the wildfire will not spread any further.
  • Extinguished or out: A wildfire is no longer burning. Suppression efforts have succeeded.

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