7 Tips For Surviving Roadside Wildfire Threats

Learn how to respond to a wildfire while on the road.
Roadside wildfire
Prepare yourself for the possibility of a deadly roadside disaster.|Photo by Getty Images

You are traveling by car across a grass area and you see smoke. No big deal at first, but then the smoke becomes so thick you cannot see much in front of you. You move off on to the shoulder of the road. Now you realize you’re in real trouble—there’s a firestorm coming. You are on your own. Here is what you must do to survive.

1. Put on your headlights and hazard lights to keep other drivers from colliding with your vehicle.

2. If you see a dangerous fire approaching you, get out of your vehicle and move approximately 10 feet up the road. Start a small, controlled fire with a self-igniting propane torch, creating a roughly 30-foot circular perimeter.

3. Get back into your vehicle. The flames you just started will have burned up to the road and gone out.

4. Drive into the newly created “black spot” formed by your intentional ignition. This area is now devoid of fuel.

5. Tie a doubled-over, 50-foot cord to your vehicle. Go behind the vehicle and, inside the radius of the cord, fire off any unburned grass inside its 50-foot reach. The cord also keeps you tied to your vehicle so you cannot get lost and disoriented in the worsening smoke. You must be able to get back to the vehicle.

6. If there is time, add more cord (another 50 feet), so that you can venture out to 100 feet. Make another arc of fire to create a larger black spot devoid of grass fuel. Your survival depends on the space you have created by burning off the calories stored in the grass and/or light fuel.

7. The black space you create around your vehicle gives the diagonal reach of the fire’s flame lengths dissipation space, hopefully angling any flames/heat up and away from you. The stronger the wind, the more horizontal those flame lengths will be. So the more space you have, the more the fire will wane and die down.

Note: During fire season in remote grassland and brush areas, always carry a propane torch with a self-starting trigger mechanism in a pot with 100 feet of heavy cord and a gallon of water.

This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE™ Winter 2016 edition. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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