The Montana Red Cross announced Monday an evacuation center opened in Helena due to a nearby grassfire burning east of the city. The center is located at 2210 Dodge Avenue at the First Assembly of God in Helena. The Elmo fire on the Flathead Agency has burned over 20,000 acres of land and forced evacuations for people living on the north and east sides of Highway 352.

If you live in an area that is under possible evacuations from nearby wildfires, it is important to prepare yourself and your loved ones before evacuations start. The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation has a Wildland Fire Action Plan to prepare households for evacuations. 

Having a communication plan and an emergency meeting location outside fire hazard areas is important. Practice evacuation plans and have one set for pets and livestock. Have several evacuation routes in place as some may be congested from others trying to evacuate the area. Familiarize the household with how to turn off water, gas, and electricity and know how to use the controls. 

It is also wise to pack at least one emergency supply kit with things like a map with marked evacuation routes, chargers for cell phones, and extra money. Having a three-day supply of water and non-perishable food for your family and pets should also be included. Have a list of emergency contacts on your phone or in your emergency supply kit.

Contact your local fire agency or fire department to coordinate firefighting efforts on your property. Leave the lights on when you leave to help crews see existing structures. If you are trapped inside your house, stay inside until there is a possibility to leave. Stay hydrated and wear clothing made out of natural fibers like cotton. Place wet towels under door frames and bring garden hoses inside, so fire embers do not ruin it. 

Drink lots of water and stay vigilant until you are ready to leave. If you know of a possible wildfire threat, evacuate immediately and alert friends and family; this can help firefighters move easier to try and contain the wildfire. Stay updated on fire conditions by listening to the tv, radio station, social media, or websites like Inciweb.

If under threat of wildfires, it is essential to be prepared and act fast if you must leave your home.