Surviving a Wildfire on Foot

Even a cursory glance at the news over the last couple of months would have caused most people to see the massive wildfires that are taking place in California and other parts of the west coast. These fires have been raging from one place to another, without any signs of abating soon. One of the more frightening aspects to wildfires is how fast they can move. What would you do if you were in an area, on foot, and saw a fire heading your way? Here are some tips that might save your life.

Stay calm: As in any emergency situation, having your wits about you must be your first objective. To panic will only cause you to make mistakes which might end up killing you and those with you.

Get clean air: More deaths are caused by smoke inhalation (in all types of fires) than by burning. If you smell smoke, you are (or may be later on) at risk of passing out. You need clean air. To get that air, stay low to the ground. Cover your nose and mouth with a damp cloth (it will act as a make-shift filter).

If you have good visuals of the area and the fire is moving away from you, then you move away from the fire, trying to get as much distance as possible between you and it. However, you may not have good visuals and will need to make a plan based on what you have. Here are some good tips to remember:

FireThe two worst places to be in a wildfire are uphill from the fire or downwind from the fire. Fires love to travel uphill and they will always travel downwind. Do not be in either of those locations. You have to move so that you are always upwind of the fire. What does that mean? Face the fire as best you can and pay attention to the wind. If the wind is moving past you from behind, turn around go into the wind so that the wind is in your face. Always stay upwind as you move.

Head for no-fire zones: If possible, move quickly to areas that have less chance of catching fire – even if the fire follows you. This can be areas that have little or no vegetation/trees; areas that have bodies of water (lakes, ponds, rivers, etc); places that have already burned, and wide roads that may act as a fire-break, giving you more time to escape.

Do not get trapped: If the fire is still heading your way, avoid getting yourself trapped in areas such as box canyons, saddle ridges, or other dead end places that will not allow you to get out of fast if the fire moves into those areas. Remember that bit about keeping your wits about you? Think like the fire before you head into any suspect areas. The one exception to this would be a very rocky canyon-type place with little or no vegetation. You may be safe if you hunker down inside that canyon as the fire will most likely burn around the canyon and not into it.

If all else fails…if you know you are going to be surrounded by the fire, and there are no escape routes for you to take, try to find a ditch or culvert (often found at the side of even the most remote roads) and get on the far side (if it is a road) from the fire. Wet your clothing with what water you have, cover yourself with dirt, mud or anything else that resist burning, and lay low with your make-shift air filter. This may not save your life, but it does give you a chance of surviving.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Robert Partain

Robert Partain

Robert Partain has been a professional writer for over 25 years. He spent ten years on active duty in the Army working as a medic and training NCO. While he covers any topic associated with military life, he specializes in writing about legislation that can affect active duty service members and veterans. Robert currently lives in the small town of Arab, Alabama.
Robert Partain
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