You Can Survive a Wildfire
By Sally Taylor
was camping east of the Cascades in central Oregon one
evening in mid summer when the territory is at it's driest and warmest.
I had a campfire going and sat gazing at the stars and drinking
campfire coffee. There was just a faint breeze rustling the trees. It
was a peaceful end to a hard day of rockhounding. While I watched the
sky, I breathed deeply, thinking how pungent the plants were. They were
always aromatic, but these were really strong. Not long after I noticed
the smell of the plants, I saw that a mist was starting to haze my
perfect view of the sky.
My belongings were gathered within a minute and my dog, Munchie, and I were making a mad dash for the car which sat parked only a few hundred feet away. Safely at the car and on the road again I was able to tell that the fire was much further off than I had thought, which was a massive relief. There in the woods at my campsite, I couldn't tell where it was or which way it was going. We drove up a slightly hazy hill and saw the fire burning in the distance. I was checking maps to find the closest place I could go to report the blaze when I saw the lights of the emergency vehicles converging on the fire.
I had never thought about being caught in a fire on a field trip before. No matter what you hunt, however, you are traveling out into possible areas for wildfires and it is important to include some knowledge of how fires act and some provisions in your supplies to make sure that if you encounter a fire, you can survive it.
A few facts about fire that you should know are:
*Dry grasses and brush will burn much faster than larger, thicker timber.
*A fire will burn faster uphill than downhill.
*Narrow gullies and even the smallest trenches in the mountainside will create "chimneys" for heat and flames and the fire will concentrate itself in these areas.
*You can not outrun a forest fire. Don't make a mistake about this - it can't be done.
What to do if you are caught in a fire.
If at all possible, get to your car. If the road is clear and you have visibility, you can drive out, but if you can't see, don't drive. If you are driving and have to pull over, do your best to pull over in a spot that is not close to vegetation.
Roll up your windows and close the vents. If you have opaque material to cover the windows with, do so. I keep a fire extinguisher in the car to spray the outside of the windows with in an emergency. Lay on the floor of the car and cover yourself with a cotton or wool blanket, or a fire retardant blanket if you have purchased one. The wind from the fire will rock your car. Don't panic and don't get up or out of the car until the flames have passed. Once you are sure the flames are by you, get out of the car.
you are where you can't reach a car, keep down wind
and down hill from flames if at all possible.
If you find yourself uphill from a fire stay away from even small indentations or draws as they will attract the fire and shoot the heat up the hill in front of them much faster. Look for any prominence with flat areas or rocks to get behind and again, get down and cover yourself.
If all has failed and you have no other choice, you may have to cover yourself with a wet blanket and run through the firewall. Only do this if it is your final option, and try to choose a spot where the flames are narrowest and lowest. Run as fast as you can and if you catch fire drop and roll once you are through the firewall.
Take notice of the terrain as you are hiking and make mental notes of safe areas you see on your way. It is much easier to keep your head about going to someplace you know is there than hunting for a spot after the emergency arises.
These are only a few measures that you need to know to save yourself in the event you are caught in a forest fire. Being prepared is always your best defense. If you are going to go into wilderness areas, you should learn as much about forest fires as possible and buy a fire retardant blanket to take with you into areas prone to burning. People die in fires every year, but people also survive fires every year. With a little time and effort you can insure that you will be one of the latter in an emergency.