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Wildfire Prep Week: When wildfire strikes

By Chris Ferreira, KCFW Reporter, cferreira@kcfw.com
Published On: Aug 06 2014 09:26:06 AM MDT
Updated On: Jul 24 2014 10:55:45 PM MDT
KALISPELL, Mont. -

Lincoln Chute knows just how devastating wildfires are. Not only is he the Fire Service Area Manager for Flathead County, but he also fights the fires.

"Once it's coming towards your house, there's not a lot you can do," said Chute.

Emergency personnel agree that if a wildfire is coming toward your house, no one should stick around.

Here in Montana, we're used to fallout from fires miles away like smoke and ash. When those arrive, all you can do is cope.

We found some tips from the Red Cross on how to deal with wildfires. They recommend turning your air conditioner on recirculate mode to keep out as much smoke as possible. Backing your car into the driveway can also make for a quick escape. And listening to TV and radio for updates is a good thing to be doing frequently.

Closing windows and doors can help to minimize the amount of smoke and dust that comes into your home, but fire officials tell us there's no way to keep it out 100 percent.

Checking with your local and state health departments for air quality reports is recommended.

"They can call us and we can let them know what's going on, or we can give them the link to the website and they can check if they wish," said Flathead County Sanitarian Wendee Jacobs.

She says the state's air quality website is a good resource to find out if it's safe to go outside.

Wearing masks can help with smoke and dust. The popular dust mask is used to keep out larger particles, while a respirator keeps out smoke and vapors. Fire officials recommend checking with a doctor on which type of mask is best for you.

Bottom line -- Chute says to leave if a fire is getting close. He says that if there is any doubt to your safety, getting out quickly is key.

"I would have people rather leave early and be safe, than to wait and wait and wait, and at the last minute go 'Uh oh, I waited too long.' That's what I don't want," said Chute.

For more information on what to do if a wildfire strikes, visit the American Red Cross website.