California wildfires: Here's when you should plan to evacuate

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. (KGO) -- Amid devastating wildfires burning across the Bay Area, the message from first responders is clear: if you live in a fire zone, you need to make plans to evacuate even if you're not yet under an evacuation warning.

RELATED: Here's what you need to know about all the fires burning in the Bay Area

With so many communities affected, confusion about the process is understandable.

Karen Conn and her family live in part of the Lake County community of Middletown that's already under a mandatory evacuation order. Right now, they're staying put to protect their home.

"We are so far, but we're not stupid," she says. "We're ready to go and we'll go at a moment's notice. But, a lot of people up here, they want to save their homes as much as they possibly can."

Ross says there are three evacuation stages: alert means there's a wildfire threat in your area, a warning means there's a high probability an evacuation will be necessary and you should make preparations and an order means get out, the threat is imminent.

VIDEO: How to prepare for a wildfire evacuation
EMBED More News Videos

If there's time, here is a list of essentials to take with you during a wildfire evacuation. Above all else, follow instructions given and get out of harm's way.

Officials encourage all of us to sign up for Nixle alerts to receive immediate notification when warnings or orders are issued. When possible, deputies or police officers will go into communities to tell people when it is time to leave.

Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick said it is imperative to take heed. "You will hear the high-low siren," said Essick. "And when you hear that siren, high-low means it's time to go."

Officials say if you defy the order - stay and become trapped - firefighters and equipment will have to come off the line and rescue you...and they're already spread thin.

RELATED: Some South Bay residents confused by wildfire evacuation orders

If you live in a community where there are evacuation warnings, you might have time for preparations that could make a difference for firefighters. In addition to readying a wildfire evacuation kit, it can be helpful to leave a ladder next to house so crews have quick access to your home.

Keep in mind that crews from across the state and nation come to help during disasters. They likely will not know about the resources available at your property the way local crews do. If you have extra water tanks on your property, leave a note to let crews know. You can also leave a water hose nearby to provide extra resources for firefighters.

App users: For a better experience, click here to view the full map in a new window

Copyright © 2021 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.