Wildfire Resource Center Part 3: What to do during a wildfire

Iris, 4, and Castle Snider, 8, look on as the Bobcat fire burns the hillsides behind their Monrovia home in September.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

DURING A WILDFIRE: This section of Lookout’s Wildfire Resource Center covers how to deal with wildfire when it happens. Topics include monitoring weather and air quality, ensuring you’re ready for an evacuation, and how you can volunteer or donate to those in need.

This is Part 3 of Lookout’s Wildfire Resource Center — a one-stop guide for everything you need to do to be prepared before, during and after a wildfire.

In this part, you will find resources on:

“Fire on the Mountain”


Wildfires are more of a “when” than “if” in California these days, so Lookout has assembled a list of resources in the event of a wildfire. Having a plan in place and knowing what resources are available to you are essential to safety during a wildfire.

This section focuses on what you might need to do in the event of a wildfire to protect your family, neighbors, home, lungs, and more. For more information on evacuation preparation checklists, see Part 2 in Lookout’s Wildfire Resource Center.

Staying informed


Getting up-to-date alerts could save your life. Be sure to sign up for text alerts, keep a list of phone numbers (in your phone and printed in your home and car) and follow Twitter pages to stay in the loop about evacuation orders and fire updates.

  • Enroll your phone number in CodeRED, a regional reverse 911 notification system that alerts residents of evacuations, severe weather, missing persons alerts and emergency police activity.
  • Check out Cal Fire’s web-based Ready for Wildfire app to sign up for their alerts, view current incidents and get help building a readiness plan.
  • To print Lookout’s list of emergency phone numbers, download the contact list below.
  • If you see smoke, or any possible active fire, always call 911.
  • To report theft, contact the Santa Cruz Police non-emergency dispatch line.
  • To report a missing person, call 911 right away. There is no mandatory waiting period.

    Communicating with neighbors


    • Check on your neighbors — especially elderly neighbors who might need help to evacuate.
    • Knock on doors.
    • Get to know your neighbors.
    • Save their phone numbers and make a plan to check in on each other when a wildfire threatens your community.

    Weather alerts

    Weather can make wildfire conditions way worse, or in the case of the CZU Lightning Complex fire in 2020, it can also be the source of ignition. To keep an eye on the sky, sign up for weather alerts or check out these websites:

    Fire incident and air quality maps

    • For Cal Fire’s up-to-date incident map, click here, and for the National Wildfire Coordinating Group’s incident map, click here. These maps are regularly updated, but more complete information on fire advancement can be found on the CZU Twitter page. Santa Cruz County also has a webpage of interactive maps relating to wildfire, debris flows and fire district boundaries.
    Cal Fire crews monitor controlled backburns to contain the 2020 CZU wildfire.
    (Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

    Dealing with power loss and evacuation


    Helping those in need


    How to volunteer:

    Volunteer Stacey Iverson shuttles evacuated chickens during the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex wildfire.
    Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter volunteer Stacey Iverson shuttles evacuated chickens during the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex wildfire.
    (Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Local Santa Cruz)

    Places you can send donations:

    If there’s anything you believe was left out of this Wildfire Resource Center, please email Lookout Santa Cruz at news@lookoutlocal.com with your suggestions.