In just two minutes, a fire can become life-threatening. In just five minutes, a home can be engulfed in flames.

The Rocky Mount fire in Shenandoah National Park, 2016. (The Winchester Star)
The Rocky Mount fire in Shenandoah National Park, 2016. (The Winchester Star)

Home fire prevention

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your residence, outside bedrooms, at the top of open stairways, or at the bottom of enclosed stairs and near the kitchen.
  • Test and clean smoke alarms once a month and replace batteries at least twice a year. Replace smoke alarms every 10 years.
  • Review escape routes with your family and practice escaping from each room.
  • Make sure windows are not nailed or painted shut. Make sure security gratings on windows have a fire safety opening feature so they can be easily opened from the inside.
  • Consider escape ladders if your residence has more than one level.
  • Make sure anti-burglary devices installed on windows can be easily opened from the inside.
  • Teach family members to stay low to the floor (where the air is safer in a fire) when evacuating.

The Virginia Department of Fire Programs provides tips for home fire prevention.

To escape a fire

  • If you come to a closed door, check it for heat with the back of your hand.  Check the top, bottom, doorknob and any cracks.
    • Do not open a hot door.  Use a window.
    • If the door is cool, open it slowly and check your escape route. If it’s clear, leave immediately and close the door behind you.
  • Crawl low under any smoke to your exit – heavy smoke and poisonous gases collect first along the ceiling.
  • Stay out once you are safely out. Do not re-enter. Call 911.
  • If you cannot escape, hang a white or light-colored sheet outside the window, alerting fire fighters to your presence.


  • The best way to protect your home from wildfires is to create a safe buffer around it, free of dead leaves and other lawn debris.
  • If you become trapped in a wildfire, go to an area clear of vegetation and dial 911.
  • The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) has more information about preparing for and escaping wildfires.

Be ready. Be willing to help.

Virginia Disaster Relief Fund