Wildfire survival California
Photo by Andrea Booher / FEMA
Northern California fire crews set fire back burn to stop the Poomacha fire from advancing westward on Oct. 26, 2007

How dangerous is a wildfire? The current King Fire near California’s Pollock Pines, some 50 miles east of Sacramento, grew 43,000 acres overnight Thursday.

The Sacramento Bee reported:

     A total of 2,000 single family residences are threatened. Another 1,500 other structures are also in danger.

     Fire engines, helicopters, airplanes, bulldozers and water tenders have been used to try to control the fire that has advanced despite the best efforts of 3,600 firefighting personnel. The cause of the fire remains under investigation, according to Calfire.

Wildfires are fairly unpredictable and can put people in harm’s way at a moment’s notice.

RELATED: What to Do During a Wildfire

With that in mind, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) recommends you take the following actions in order to survive a wildfire.

Survival in a Vehicle

  • This is dangerous and should only be done in an emergency, but you can survive the firestorm if you stay in your car. It is much less dangerous than trying to run from a fire on foot.
  • Roll up windows and close air vents. Drive slowly with headlights on. Watch for other vehicles and pedestrians. Do not drive through heavy smoke.
  • If you have to stop, park away from the heaviest trees and brush. Turn headlights on and ignition off. Roll up windows and close air vents.
  • Get on the floor and cover up with a blanket or coat.
  • Stay in the vehicle until the main fire passes.
  • Stay in the car. Do not run! Engine may stall and not restart. Air currents may rock the car. Some smoke and sparks may enter the vehicle. Temperature inside will increase. Metal gas tanks and containers rarely explode.

If You Are Trapped at Home

  • If you do find yourself trapped by wildfire inside your home, stay inside and away from outside walls. Close doors, but leave them unlocked. Keep your entire family together and remain calm.

If Caught in the Open

  • The best temporary shelter is in a sparse fuel area. On a steep mountainside, the back side is safer. Avoid canyons, natural “chimneys” and saddles.
  • If a road is nearby, lie face down along the road cut or in the ditch on the uphill side. Cover yourself with anything that will shield you from the fire’s heat.
  • If hiking in the back country, seek a depression with sparse fuel. Clear fuel away from the area while the fire is approaching and then lie face down in the depression and cover yourself. Stay down until after the fire passes!

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