Wildfire Preparation for Families with Special Needs

Another record heat wave hit San Diego and with it came fires and evacuations. Now with the chance of Santa Ana winds many communities are reminded to be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice. Are you ready?


Forest wildfire in San Diego, California

On Tuesday, the 8th, the county published an article asking residents in the area of the Valley Fire to be prepared to evacuate in 15 minutes or less. As of Wednesday morning, over 17,000 acres have burned and the fire is 11% contained. This dashcam footage released several months ago shows how quickly wildfire conditions can change with the wind. Residents who are in the evacuation warning area on this map who require additional time to evacuate or have pets and livestock are asked to leave now. An evacuation order is issued if there is “an imminent threat to life,” that isn’t the only concern.

Healthy Children published a thorough information page for parents regarding wildfires, including possible health concerns to kids. The primary risk, even when not in the blaze path, is damage to growing lungs. Any kids with respiratory issues should remain in a clean air space and closely monitored.


The Ready San Diego Personal Disaster Plan is a step by step equipping guide in case of fire, quake or flood. Print it, fill it out, update it regularly, and practice as well. If you have animals, are in the Valley Fire area and are considering leaving out of concern, the county Department of Animal Services can help.

For families with special needs concerns, include a Personal Care Plan.

  • Detailed daily plan of care
  • Instructions on how to use medical equipment
  • Allergy information
  • Surgical history
  • Diagnosis information
  • List of doctors, pharmacists and equipment providers with contact information
  • List of medications (including photocopies of prescriptions) and other supplies
  • Insurance and caseworker information
  • Special items such as catheterization schedules
  • Biographical information about the child (likes/dislikes, hobbies/interests, triggers and more)

If possible, have duplicates of this in multiple locations, such as work or a family member’s house. The Special Needs Resource Foundation of San Diego writes:

“Families with special needs should also keep an emergency kit with specific items needed for your child. This might include prescription medications, extra eye glasses, contact lenses and solution, batteries for hearing aids and communication devices, special dietary foods and supplies (including formulas and recipes), diapers, wipes, catheters, nebulizer/breathing equipment, power sources and adapters, hand sanitizers, wipes and masks for kids with immune issues, comfort items such as stuffed animals, pacifiers and bedding. To whatever extent possible, duplicate your full supply kit and keep a second set of items outside the home, such as with a family member in another part of town. If a complete duplicate kit is not possible, create mini-kits.”

The Red Cross is also a thorough resource for persons with disabilities we recommend.


Not only does smoke affect the upper respiratory system, but communicable diseases like Covid rage through groups sheltering close together. With Coronavirus spread still prevalent in our community, consider alternatives to waiting for evacuation orders and gathering at shelters.

Wildfire in Yosemite

For example, the author of this article lived in Yosemite National Park at the time of the 2008 wildfire. That fire burned tens of thousands of acres. Ash and smoke shut down main exits due to lack of visibility. While the area he lived never needed evacuating, he hit the road with his wife and two week old newborn on that Saturday night. (7/26/2008) They sheltered with family here in San Diego. A week turned into a month before the air quality returned to a comfortable level.

In summary, have a plan and keep it up to date. Stay safe San Diego.

By Steven J.
Reviewed by: Tania Camacho

Steven J.