What You Can Do To Survive A Forest Fire

Forest fires are either started deliberately or by accident. In either case, it destroys not only the surrounding wildlife but also the lives of people who are caught in between the fires or people with a home nearby.

Forest fires are prone to happen in any dry, wooded area especially in areas covered with conifers, which is highly flammable. This likelihood is further increased by the abundance of dead and fallen wood or when there is a drought season.

Check for how long the drought has been going on. The trail manager will likely have all the information you need about the condition of the area. They will also post that information to let the public know about the current level of fire danger.

People find out about a fire by seeing or smelling, hearing from other hikers and meeting a ranger on patrol. You need have information and instructions about escape routes. Look for notices that may have this information.

During a drought, the authorities prohibit the use of campfires. In some places, hiking is not allowed and the access blocked.

What To Do in a Forest Fire?

In case you're caught in a forest fire or you see one in the distance, the first thing you should obviously try to do is go as far away from it as possible. If you cannot leave, look for the safest place to shelter.

Here are some tips to increase your chances of survival in a forest fire:

Cross a fire break (e.g. road or river) to the other side away from the fire

Go towards large vegetation-free zones like a rock field or lake if you can (the larger the area, the less smoke you have to inhale.)

Don't descend into a valley where a fire is burning - the more barriers between you and the fire the safer

Lie face down on a barest patch you can find if you're in a flammable area and cover yourself with soil if you're trapped and Breathe through the soil by putting your mouth against it.

If the fire has burned out, be careful of burning overhead branches and ground fires

How to Prevent Accidentally Starting a Forest Fire

The way you leave and secure you fire is much more important than to be able to leave one. Use you common sense whether the fire is really necessary for cooking or to make sure your actions don't pose a fire hazard.

Here are some guidelines laid down by the Forest Service:

Never build a fire on a deep litter, such as pine needles. It can potential erupt into a forest blaze after smoldering for days.

Clear all inflammable organic material from an area appreciably bigger than your fire, scraping right down to bare earth - using a camp stove is better for the environment.

Build a ring of stones around your fire. The purpose is to contain the ash and reduce the chance of spreading.

Never leave a fire unattended.

Do not build a fire on a windy day on a flammable area.

Avoid wood that generates a lot of sparks. The sparks can cause a fire through the surrounding vegetation and may burn your sleeping bag and other camping gear.

After use, make sure the fire is dead cold. Stir the ashes deeply and thoroughly even when it has been out for hours. Soak it with water to make sure there is no way for it to restart.


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