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People over the age of 65 are more than twice as likely to die in a home fire than the general population. People over the age of 85 are four times as likely (Source). Caregivers can play an important role in keeping seniors safe from fire by creating an emergency plan and taking some precautions. In this article, we’re going to talk about fire safety: how to prepare and keep your loved one safe this fire season.

California Fire Season Safety: What Causes Fires?

There are two general types of home fires that can happen during fire season: an incidental home fire, and a wildfire. Elderly and low-income Californians are disproportionally affected by both home fires and wildfires (Source), so let’s talk about the causes.

Home Fire Causes

​​Home fires are generally caused by some kind of human error. It might be something as simple as leaving the oven on or falling asleep with a candle burning. But it can also be something more serious, like electrical wiring that’s not up to code. Here are some examples:

  1. Appliances and Equipment – any appliance or device that gets warm or heats (like a computer, dryer, oven, air fryer, drills, etc.) is a potential source of fire.
  2. Candles – leaving a candle unattended (if you leave the house or fall asleep, for example) commonly causes house fires.
  3. Electrical Systems and Devices – poorly done or poorly maintained electrical wiring may be a source of unrealized danger.
  4. Smoking – smokers drastically increase their risk of fire in the home.
  5. Chemicals and Gasses – leaking gas paired with a spark (like turning on a leaking gas stove) can also cause house fires.


Wild Fire Causes

In California, wildfires are typically also started by human activity. This can be anything from tossing a cigarette butt into tall grass to leaving a campfire unattended. Additionally, aging infrastructure poses a risk of fire in the right conditions.

While drought and high winds can create conditions that are ripe for wildfire, it is usually human activity that triggers the blaze. Once started, a wildfire can quickly spread through dry vegetation, fueled by strong winds.

California Fire Season Safety: What Causes Danger?

Regardless of the cause of the fire, it’s important to understand the danger to the elderly adult in your care. In this section, we’ll discuss the risk factors that make fires more dangerous for aging and ailing adults.

Risk Factors for the Elderly

There are several reasons for this increased risk of injury or mortality for elderly adults. Some of these risk factors include: 

  • Diminished mobility
  • Decreased sense of smell
  • Decreased hearing
  • Impaired vision
  • Medications that can cause drowsiness or confusion, making it difficult to respond quickly in an emergency


Tips for Fire Season: How to Prepare and Prevent an Emergency

There are many things you can do to ease the risks of fire-related injuries through preparation.  In this section, we’ll discuss how to prepare for an emergency ahead of time to keep your loved one safe.

13 Tips to Keep Your Loved One Safe this Fire Season

The two causes of fire require slight iterations to the safety plan. We’ll address both (and general fire safety tips) in this section.

General Fire Safety

To prepare for any fire, here are some general fire tips to consider:

  • Create an evacuation plan in case of a fire. If your loved one lives in a tall building, make sure they have a way to get out and practice the evacuation plan before an emergency happens. If they are no longer mobile and stairs wouldn’t be an option, it may be time to consider moving them into a safer, more senior-friendly living arrangement.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home and test them monthly to make sure they’re working properly.

Home Fire Safety

To help prevent a home fire, implement the following into your routine: 

  • Keep flammable items like newspapers and curtains away from heat sources
  • Check electrical cords and appliances regularly for signs of wear and tear. If you see any frayed wires or loose plugs, replace them immediately.
  • Never leave cooking food unattended, even for a short time. Turn off all appliances when you’re finished using them.
  • Keep flammable liquids like cleaning fluids and paint thinners away from heat sources. Store them in cool, dry places.
  • Don’t smoke inside the house, and make sure all smoking materials are extinguished before throwing them away.

Wildfire Safety

While you can’t prevent a wildfire, you can prepare for one. If a wildfire breaks out near you or your loved one in California, here are some safety tips to keep your loved one healthy and prepared:

  • Keep an eye on local air quality forecasts and avoid being outdoors when the smoke is thick.
  • Stay hydrated and avoid strenuous activity.
  • Keep cool and dress in loose, light-colored clothing.
  • Use air filters and purifiers indoors, and keep windows and doors closed as much as possible.
  • Keep the gas tank full (at least halfway).
  • Have an evacuation plan in place in case you’re asked to or need to evacuate (start preparing important documents, gather any sentimental or valuable items, pack clothing and food, etc.).

Closing Thoughts

If you’re providing care to a loved one, we hope you found some information to help you prepare for wildfire season. To get more information about other resources available to you as a California caregiver, contact us at the California Caregiver Resource Center nearest to you or join CareNav for free today.

Further Reading: Getting Paid to Provide Care for a Loved One

If you are a caregiver, we recommend you check out our article about getting paid to be a caregiver in California next. Becoming a caregiver is both physically and mentally difficult, and expensive. The state of California offers several paths for least partial compensation or subsidized assistance, so click here to learn more about how to get paid to be a caregiver.

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