For millennia, wildfires have been a part of ecosystems around the globe. But as more and more humans live close to (or in the midst of) fire prone areas—and continue to stop most fires before they spread—the deadfall wood and flammable undergrowth can build to dangerous levels. Finally, when a brush fire coincides with the right wind pattern and dry weather (like the drought conditions this year), all hell breaks loose. For the past few weeks, throughout the North American continent, fire fighters have been battling blazes both huge and small. Most recently, the Fort McMurray fire in Alberta, Canada, has caused the evacuation of nearly 100,000 people. Although fire fighters have been helped by cooler and wetter weather, the fire may still reach Saskatchewan before it is contained.
Should you find yourself in the path of a wildfire, rely on these lifesaving tips:
1. Avoid canyons and other natural chimneys, as their natural wind flow patterns could draw in a fire and trap you.
2. Get into a river, lake or other body of water, if possible. Lie back and use a wet piece of clothing over your face, as both a heat shield and a smoke filter.
3. Make your way to breaks in the trees, which could mean breaks in the fuel and therefore the fire.
4. If you’re near a road, lie face down along the road in a ditch or depression. Get under the road if you can squeeze into a culvert or drain pipe.
5. Cover up with anything that provides a shield against the heat.
6. Remember that the most dangerous places to be are uphill from the fire and downwind from the flames. Let the wind point you in the safest direction of travel to get away. If it’s blowing toward the fire from your position, then run into the wind. But if the wind is behind the fire, blowing toward you – run on a course that puts you perpendicular to the wind, and move fast! That fire will be coming at you quickly.
Have you ever been caught near or in a wildfire? Tell us your story by leaving a comment.