Surviving a Forest Fire

A few months ago the woods behind my residence caught fire, due to someone (not me) throwing a cigarette down in the brush. It was a small fire and a neighbor kept it contained until fire fighters got on the scene. It got me to thinking though about how to survive a forest fire, should I ever be caught in one.

Should you be out driving and be caught up in a forest fire, don’t leave the car. You are often much safer inside a car during a forest fire than if you leave it and try to run. If you are able to keep driving, do so slowly and with your lights on. Close all windows and vents to prevent as much smoke, getting in as you can. If you can’t drive any farther then try to stop away from trees and brush if possible, this fuels the flames. Then get on the floorboard and cover up if possible. Most of the time the fire will wash over the vehicle and keep going, the car usually will not explode as the fire moves quickly. If you are in a house, stay there, you won’t be able to outrun the fire and are safer inside.

If you are caught outside away from a home or vehicle, then stay calm. Try to find a low lying area with sparse tree or brush cover. A key to any forest fire survival is to remember fires thrive on wood. If possible try to remove any twigs or tree limbs on the ground near you. If the forest fire has no fuel, it will move quickly to where it can find some. Also remember that the trees will fall in the fire, so stay out of falling distance of any if you can. Always stay as low as possible as smoke rises and you will get more air, low to the ground.

If you are on a mountain the backside is safer. Do not go into a canyon or straddle a ridge at the saddle. If you are on a road, get in a ditch and cover up with something if possible. If you see any animals do not try to help them. Even the most timid of animals will be scared and may act erratic in a forest fire. The cute little bunny may just claw and bite you if you manage to catch him. I also don’t advise trying to follow running animals to safety. Even if they know a trail that will help them escape, you won’t be able to keep up with them. And they may just panic and run deeper into the fire.

If you are able to get into a creek or river this can be helpful. But don’t forget about smoke, and as mentioned trees will fall. If it is a very small creek it may not help survive a forest fire, or if it’s banks are heavy with brush. And if it’s a big river and you can’t swim, you may well drown! But for myself I would rather drown than burn anyway.

However even a dry stream bed can help. It will have less brush in it, to burn. And you can try to follow it to safety. Plus potential rescuers will see you from the air, easier without trees covering you. If the fire passes you, head for the areas already burned out. The fire won’t have fuel there and you can escape that way.

Please keep in mind I am not a fire fighter. The only fire training I have received was on an emergency response team, for a factory. I have not been trained in forest fire fighting or survival. However I did research this article as best I could. Thanks for reading this article on forest fire survival on

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