The Only Way to Get Out of a Wildfire


Picture in your mind, you’re camping with
your buddies for the weekend in a nearby forest. Your tents are all set-up, you ate your dinner,
and you went to sleep. Suddenly, the smell of smoke wakes you up. You go outside to see what’s going on, and
there it is: you’re in the middle of a wildfire. What do you do? – Ok, I know this scenario might seem unreal
for most people, but it’s more common than you’d expect. You see, even though wildfires are considered
natural disasters, only 15% of them happen naturally. The rest are a result of human negligence. The most common ones being campfires left
unattended and deliberate harm involving fires. Wildfires are very fast; they can overtake
the average person in just a few minutes. Their flames travel approximately 14 miles
per hour, and they burn everything in their path if they find enough fuel to feed on. Knowing what’s going on and how to act in
these situations is a true life-saver, especially when you’re trapped in a fire, but I’ll
get into that later. First, let’s get into the how’s and the
why’s. Naturally occurring wildfires usually come
about during droughts or in dry weather. That’s when green vegetation becomes “bone-dry”,
to the point that it acts as a fuel for the fire. Then, strong winds play their part as well. They cause the flames to move quicker and
cover larger areas. Finally, we have the warm summer weather that
encourages burning. With all these ingredients available in most
areas, the only thing missing is a tiny spark to bring down huge forests in a short amount
of time. Whether they occur naturally, or are the result
of human actions, three elements must be available for a wildfire to burn. Fuel, a strong heat source and oxygen. Firefighters call these elements the fire
triangle. Fuel can be any material that feeds the fire. For example: grass, brushes, trees, and sometimes
even houses. The more fuel in the surrounding area, the
stronger the flames will be. The heat source gives the catastrophic spark
to the fire, and it helps it to burn when the temperatures are high enough. Finally, we have our last element: Air! – Which gives oxygen to the wildfire, and
can even carry sparks for miles. It doesn’t take a forest to make a wildfire
possible either. Grassland fires are equally disastrous. So, if you’re ever in such an unfortunate
situation; there are a few things you can do that will help you protect yourself and
your home. 1. Defense Planning
Here’s the thing. When firefighters are called to battle blazes,
their main goal is to stop a wildfire from feeding. And you can apply the same principle to protect
your home. You can create a defensible space around your
house that covers at least 30 feet – This is your shield. That area needs to be cleared of flammable
material that a fire could use as fuel. Get rid of dried grass, dried leaves, brush,
firewood, dead trees, and don’t forget the branches. Since the fire sparks can travel for miles,
make sure that your gutters and rooftop are cleared as well. If you’re renovating or building a new home,
take some precautions with the materials you’re using on your roof. It’s better to go for asphalt shingles or
fire-resistant tiles, rather than something more flammable. 2. Monitor your area
Ah, I know, it’s summer. It’s the time to feel careless and enjoy
a nice swim at the beach. But wildfires are lurking. The best way to keep an eye out is through
communication networks, either through social media, or even better: old-school local radio
broadcasts. Many people use social media groups to alert
people about where the wildfires are spreading. But your best bet to get immediate updates
is to tune-in throughout the day on local commercial radio broadcasts. 3. Escaping
If a wildfire has spread beyond control, and it’s close to where you live, chances are
you’ll need to evacuate as soon as possible. And, it requires a lot more strategy than
one might anticipate. Typically, you have some time to decide your
next steps, but knowledge is key here. Flames travel with the wind, and when you’re
running away from the fire, you should strategically angle across the wind. This will give you an opportunity to go around
it. Another thing to remember is that wildfires
travel faster uphill than downhill, so a downhill path is your best bet. Always have in mind the fire fuel. The best route to take is the one that doesn’t
have enough flammable material for the flames to feed on; such as waterways and rocky areas. To keep yourself protected and prevent any
burns, you can pour water all over you. Laying on the ground is your last survival
resort. Many people have managed to survive inside
drainage pipes, caves and holes in the ground. If you have no other option, then the only
thing you can do is to curl up in a ditch and cover yourself with soil. However, this is very hazardous. Wildfires consume a LOT of oxygen. And not being able to breath when you’re
on the ground can result in suffocation. 4. Coming together
Nobody’s fully prepared when disasters like this strike. When a wildfire is making its way into a neighborhood,
not everyone will be with their families or friends. And that makes people feel uneasy. Granted, you can use your cell-phone to redirect
your family members to a safe area, but sometimes, these catastrophes knock out communication,
power lines and cell-phone towers. You need to plan beforehand. All family members should know where to go
in case they’re separated. When evacuating, your best tool outta there
is your car. So, map out all the roads you can take that
will lead you to safety. Keep in mind that everyone else will also
be using their vehicle to escape, so knowing the roads like the back of your hand will
help you avoid traffic. Equip your vehicle with a first aid kit in
case you need it. But don’t forget your wallet. It’s not that necessary, but useful. In any case, you might need your ID or money. Keep all your important valuables ready inside
a box. This should include passports, birth certificates,
marriage licenses, family jewelry and whatnot. All these items should be pre-packed ahead
of time during the summer. Don’t wait until a fire breaks out to pack
them. If that’s the case, it’s better to risk
losing them than your own lives. 5. What to do when you’re trapped. According to statistics, more than 50% of
homeowners either refuse, or fail to evacuate their homes. And being trapped inside a house with large
wildfires surrounding the area would be scarier than I can even imagine. If you’re in this situation, then there
are a few things you can do to increase your chances of getting out of there safe. • Let the authorities know by calling the
emergency services right away. • Make sure you keep all windows and doors
closed, but NOT locked. This will prevent the fire from spreading
faster, while still allowing fire-fighters to get in. • Keep the lights on to signal rescuers
• Keep a flashlight on you at all times in case there’s a power outage. • Change to cotton clothing. Most other synthetic material can melt and
cause serious injuries. • Fill your bathtub, sinks, buckets and
pretty much anything you can find with water. • Flames outside a house can cause the temperature
inside the home to rise, causing a fire inside the house. So, it’s important to move the furniture
away from the walls, and to the center of each room. But don’t forget NOT TO block the exits. • If there’s fire inside the house, try
to put it out using water, and stay below smoke level. • Lastly, don’t leave your home until
you’re sure you’ll have better chances of surviving outside than inside. How about you? Do you have any wildfire survival tips to
offer? Please let me know in the comments. If you learned something new today, then give
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