KPFD Urges Homeowner Preparations for Wildfire on the Key Peninsula

Assessment, planning and preparation for the worst are the keys to success and survival.


Anticipating a warmer and drier summer than usual, KP Fire Department Public Information Officer Anne Nesbit said now is the time for Key Peninsula residents to prepare for fire emergencies.

Awareness of fire danger has grown in recent years after tragedies in Paradise, California, in 2018, where 80 people were trapped and died in a fast-moving wildfire, and on the island of Maui in 2023 when the historic town of Lahaina was destroyed by fire, killing at least 101.

The fires also left thousands homeless. “We have the classic geography that sets us up for a Paradise-like event; that is why we are urging people to be ready,” Nesbit said. “We will have information on social media, we will have it on our reader board, and information will be available at every station.”

The KP is home to approximately 20,000 people in an area 16 miles long, bordered by Case and Carr Inlets. Nearly an island, the road systems narrow to one main highway for entering or leaving the peninsula. Nesbit emphasized that if 20,000 people need to evacuate, education and preparation will be necessary to avoid panic and injury. There are many aspects of preparation for a fire emergency, she said.

This year, western Washington fire agencies will implement a standardized language approach to public information: a “Ready, Set, Go” plan for notifying residents about potential fire emergencies and talking about levels of fire alert status.

The Ready portion of the plan includes a checklist for basic readiness, developing a personal plan of action in case of fire, learning how to use a fire extinguisher, and assembling an emergency kit. Planning and practicing an escape route, preferably more than one, is high on the list along with having everything needed for evacuation in one place.

People need to remember they are responsible for their animals, including livestock, she said.

The Set element stresses the importance of monitoring current fire conditions and status. It includes instructions for minimizing combustible material in and around the home, having emergency supplies at hand, backing the car into the driveway for a quick departure, and patrolling the property.

The Go phase of the plan means taking early action to leave home and go to a predetermined location with an emergency kit. People who need more time to leave their homes should plan to evacuate well in advance of any order to do so.

The Key Peninsula Fire Department follows the direction of the Pierce County Fire Marshal for burn ban criteria. The local department, however, monitors local conditions for burn permitting.

There is no formula to predict wildfires in our area, according to Nesbit, except to continually monitor the weather and dry conditions. In addition, there is no way to account for the unexpected, like a dry lightning strike or a still-burning cigarette thrown from a car window. People play a large part in starting fires.

The KP has not experienced a large wildfire to date. There are several spot fires each year, such as those caused by dry lightning strikes.

Wildfire preparation means taking stock of your needs and deciding what to pack in an emergency kit. Do you have medications or oxygen? Small pets? Do you need to check on an elderly neighbor? Documents such as insurance and licenses, water, flashlights and batteries, phone numbers, extra eyeglasses, cash or credit cards, electronic devices, and chargers should be part of the emergency kit. It can be as simple as filling a file-size box and keeping it in a place with easy access. A red box in the entryway closet is easy to grab on the way out the door.

Nesbit recommended that newer residents on the KP take a drive to become familiar with all routes on and off the peninsula. For example, residents on the north end may need to travel south, depending on wind and fire direction. Likewise, people living south of the Home Bridge may be safe but cut off from the main roads going north. Planning alternative routes or an area to shelter in place is a must.

“Always have a plan B or C for your evacuation routes,” she said. “Keeping in mind that we live on a peninsula, for some a waterfront route might be a valid option.” Dry runs are essential.

“People can learn what is going to work and what needs improvement. We don’t want people going back to their house because they forgot something.”

Residents new to country living may not be used to stocking up. Preparations for fire emergencies include having a three-day supply of food and water. KPFD does everything possible to fight fires and assist residents, but in an emergency, people should plan to be self-sufficient for several days.

Emergency information packets are available at KPFD headquarters in Key Center and on its website. They include checklists of what to take with a 1- or 2-hour warning down to a 15-minute warning.

One particularly precarious time for fire danger is the Fourth of July. Fireworks used in an unsafe manner for the weather conditions can easily spark a fire.

Another way to prevent a fire is by strict adherence to burn bans. Pay attention to the weather when attempting to burn, even if a burn ban is not in force. If the day is windy, don’t burn, postpone it for a calmer day. “If your lawn is very dry, even mowing your grass can start a fire if the mower blades strike a rock and create a spark. We’ve had some of those,” Nesbit said.

“As a community, we have worked together well to avoid these types of fires. We are being smart, but we can always do better.”

For more information, go to