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Fires Raging: How to Survive a Wildfire

Natural Disasters and Relocation

How to Survive a Wildfire
As wildfires plague the southwest and many communities have gone up in flames, knowing how to survive a wildfire can keep you alive and out of danger. What else do the experts advise? Get out while the gettin's good -- why states with high annual rain fall may be the best move you can make today.
by Tom Brennan, Copyright ©
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A wildfire bearing down is a vision from hell.
Huge sheets of windblown flames rushing towards your home. The wind has gone past hurricane velocity and the firestorm is coming. You have been ordered to leave immediately. What now? California’s ongoing wildfires have shown us apocalyptic images that literally are searing nightmares. What would you do if caught in the terrifying path of these firestorms?

Here's a list of things to consider -- if you want to survive or avoid a wildfire all together.

1. Research the History of Wildfires in Your Area

Research and know the fire history of your area. Do not live where wildfires are a part of the environment. By now it should be clear that living in forested areas that are prone to natural drought conditions comes with a high risk that at some point a natural cycle of wildfires is going to take place, and your region could be part of the next large wildfire.

You need more rain -- or you risk more droughts

Though you may get more sunshine annually in a hot and dry climate, states that receive more rainfall annually are typically states with a lot less risk of wildfire (though they can still be at risk as well if following a season of drought; but the odds are still less than a hot dry state). In the prepper community, moving and relocation are hot topics and we have advised people to consider the Pacific Northwest and Western Washington state / Western Oregon / North Idaho / Western Montana as regions that receive a lot more rain than the southwest states.

If you're ok with heavy snow in the winter months, North Idaho and Western Montana are places to consider, but as recent months have shown, they too are at risk of wildfires following drought conditions that can take place.

Western Washington, Western Oregon, Puget Sound

Ultimately, the Pacific Northwest, west of the Cascade Mountains, called the Puget Sound in Western Washington state, is going to be one of the best places on the West Coast for avoding wild fires and natural disasters in general.

On the East Coast, any area that is not in the common path of hurricanes is an area to consider, but for other reasons, we advise against living near populated regions due to other threats that currently exist to the U.S. homeland and are not going away any time soon. The East Coast of the U.S. is heavily populated; a catastrophic disaster can send evacuees in to the countryside, quickly overrunning small towns that simply will not have the resources to deal with millions of evacuees. A better choice, if you're out on the East Coast, may be the furthest northern regions of the U.S. You will have to adapt to cold winters, but you increase your survival rate by getting away from major cities that would suffer the most following a catastrophic disaster, natural or man-made (WMD).

Don't Forget Canada

Next week we are publishing on British Columbia, Canada and everything B.C. has to offer preppers who are seeking a life in a safer climate from natural disasters, and especially avoiding those wildfires that are devastating parts of California and only likely to continue in the coming years. In the coming weeks we will also be discussing Newfoundland, Canada.

Where Do You Live Now?

First, if you live in an area with a history of wildfires, is it responsible to stay there? Is the view, home equity or other transitory value worth the obvious risk? The current situation of extreme weather, much caused by the documented quiet periods of solar activity where wind currents, rainfall and other changeable conditions can occur have caused drought, dryness of forests and scrub brush and higher than average winds to generate fire hurricanes which even the bravest of fire fighters, formations of air tankers and hopes for rain can only try to succeed in fighting.

Surviving A Wildfire

2. Have a Plan for Avoiding / Escaping Traffic

Videos of lines of traffic passing through flames on both sides of the freeway bring the horror of being trapped into the minds of many. Authorities decided that to keep traffic moving was less risky than blocking routes and turning back the vehicles.
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Wildfires can occur naturally from lightning, old growth forests that haven’t been tended, careless campfires, outright arson and even warfare. In WW2 the Japanese sent balloons with incendiary bombs attached to try to set West Coast forests on fire. Recently Islamic Jihadists have told followers to set wildfires in America. The obvious dangers have multiplied.

3. Make Your Property Resistant to Damage

But if wildfires are only occasional and you determine that the risk is acceptable you can make your property resistant to damage from a wildfire. There are some basic precautions anyone can take.

For a start, clear any brush, plantings and such that can dry out and become fuel for a fire away from all buildings and structures.

Replace shingles with fireproof roofing and make sure you have sturdy, farm and ranch grade hoses and an adequate water supply available at all times. You can assume that electrical power will not be available so a mechanical pump should be ready.

Never park or store vehicles near any of the buildings; keep any flammable items away as well. Keep driveways clear of trees, brush and any burnable materials that could fall and block your escape.

Have several escape routes and maps ready if evacuation is the only option.

Family Survival Plan

4. Keep Bug Out Bags / Get Home Bags Packed and Ready

Have a 72 hour emergency pack ready -- called a Get Home Bag -- for each person and communicate plans for an evacuation. Though a 72 hour survival kit is often called a Get Home Bag, obviously your goals for evacuation may be to get far away from home. Regardless, a 72 hour survival kit on your back will be lightweight and enable you to travel several miles on foot if a vehicle isn't an option. If it's clear that your home isn't going to make it, then you're going to want to grab your bug out bag instead (packed with several days of essential gear and supplies).

Have a plan for all emergencies: where to meet, what to do, what to take.

Your Pets Are Relying on You for Safety

If you have pets, be ready to take them with you. If you have livestock, let them loose, they will survive if you set them free. Have photos and write your telephone number on them somewhere to reclaim them afterwards. In California, one boarding stable left their horses in locked stalls when they themselves evacuated. Most of the trapped horses died -- a tragedy that shouldn't have happened.

Trapped Behind the Flames

Surviving Being Trapped in a Wildfire

It is a reality that even when evacuating, a fast moving fire can jump a road or freeway and trap people trying to escape. Wildfire fighters are always prepared for this and there are ways to survive. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection have recommended these steps should you find yourself in your vehicle and facing entrapment by a wildfire:

If you are caught with no visible escape route while in your vehicle:

Remember to stay calm; you are in danger and have to think clearly and act decisively.

Move your vehicle into a clearing, away from vegetation which will fuel the fire.

Be sure to close all of the vehicle’s windows and vents to keep smoke out.

Make sure to cover everyone with a blanket or jacket of natural fiber, or wool blanket. Synthetics are flammable.

Have all occupants lie face down on the vehicle’s floor.

Someone is to use their cell phone to advise local officials of your situation and tell them what you have done. Give clear instructions to 911.They will respond. But your immediate survival is up to you.

Also think about wearing natural fibers during the wildfire season; synthetics are dangerously flammable. A natural fiber scarf and or bandana are also good ideas for face protection. Cover as much surface as possible.

If you are on foot or have had to abandon your vehicle and are faced with an oncoming fire:

Absolutely remember to stay calm. Panic reactions are fatal ones.

Look for a nearby area clear of vegetation, and overhanging trees, find a ditch or depression in the earth or try to dig one out on level ground if possible. The fire will pass over a hole or trench if it's deep enough.

Water is Your Friend

If it's possible, saturate your clothing in water, including blankets, hats, scarves, etc. Wet clothing reduces the odds of an ash or flame setting your clothing on fire.

Lie Down Flat, Find a Depression in the Ground

Calmly have everyone lie face down, if you have a blanket or other natural fiber covering use it; cover up as much of your body as possible, protect any children.

Call 911 on your phone and tell them where you are and what you are doing. They will respond as soon as possible, in the meantime it’s up to you to get your group and yourself through this.

Wildfire fighters have fire shelters made of reflective material in which they wrap themselves when being overtaken by a fire. Being in an open area will speed the passing of the fire and the flame resistant material will protect them. This year fire fighters will be using new shelters developed from NASA heat shield technology. You have a chance to survive if you follow their recommendations.

If you stay in your home

Remain calm and confident; keep your family and others together in one place.

Remember to call 911 and inform the local emergency responders of your situation and what you are doing. Tell them your location and whereabouts in the structure where you are sheltered.

Quickly fill all available sinks and bath tubs with cold water.

To prevent smoke and keep harmful fumes out, keep doors and windows closed, but unlocked.

Remain inside the house. Keep everyone together

Remember to keep away from the outside walls, doors and windows. Heat can penetrate these surfaces and glass can shatter.

Combined with keeping your property fire safe and resistant, you can survive if you are prepared.

Essential Items for Wildfire Evacuation:

A plan: write it out, talk it out, and print it out. Let your relatives, friends, business and church contacts know about it. Include where to meet, how to contact, routes to take and what to bring.

Maps: US Geological survey maps show topography (altitudes, water sources, etc.) keep in plastic envelopes. Keep them in your wallet or purse.

A small, personal survival kit: water filter, first aid supplies, nutrition bars, multi-tool and quality knife.

Dependable shoes or boots that won't come untied should you have to run to safety.

Also a natural fiber sweatshirt, hat and scarf.

Wildfires are realities, nightmares that last for days and nights and take huge amounts of resources to overcome. But the extreme weather, changes in wind currents and the building booms into vulnerable areas that have ignored past history of wildfires make responsible preparation a necessity.

In a wildfire situation the lives of others and yourself will depend on wise preparation, calm and decisive action and leadership. It’s up to you in the final analysis. You can survive wildfires with intelligent, pre-emptive planning.

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