How to Survive a Forest Fire
Forest Fires are among the top worst places to have to exist in. Unfortunately, they are more common than most people believe. Even more important, they spread faster than people can realize and this is the reason that every year firefighters find hikers and backpackers dead in forest fires.
Surviving a forest fire is very difficult. Besides having to deal with the fire itself, the other dangers that await you are: smoke inhalation, smoke blindness, dead air, flash burns, dehydration, and the greatest killer of firefighters the widowmaker trees.
Forest fires can move at alarming speeds. Depending on the wind they can move as fast as ten miles an hour. This is why the first rule of forest fires is to move laterally to the fire. The fire will move in the same direction as the wind. If you come face to face with a forest fire then you should move laterally to its front line. Moving quickly you should move as far to the sides of the fire as possible. moving to the sides of the fire you are going to have a better chance of getting away from the fire.
The wind determines the direction that the fire will move fastest. You should take notice of which direction the wind is blowing and do your best effort to move in the opposite direction.
Though the wind determines the direction of the fire will spread the fastest, it does not necessarily mean that the fire will not spread in multiple directions at once. Fires can create a wind bubble. This wind bubble is basically when the superheated air of the forest fire expands, it sucks the cold super oxygenated air from up high and creates a reverse mushroom effect. What I mean to say is that the bottom of the fire becomes extremely hot and the high heat causes the fire to spread in all directions quickly. This is the same type of effect used by blacksmiths to superheat metal. This is why getting away from the front line flame is so important.
Besides the flames, the smoke is going to be the silent killer. The smoke of fire contains two things that can kill you;(1) ash and (2) carbon dioxide. Both of these things apart are deadly enough, however, during a forest fire, these two killers are together and multiplied. Breathing in too much smoke will cause you to die. According to Hollywood, this takes a great deal of smoke in order to cause you to have smoke inhalation. Unfortunately, it only takes a small bit to kill you. Most civilians killed in a forest fire die not because of smoke inhalation but die because they pass out from smoke inhalation and then burn in the fire. A rule to remember is that if you are close enough to see smoke, you are close enough to burn.
So what do you do if you are in an area and get caught in a forest fire?
If you are going to be in an area where there is a forest fire and you get caught in it, there are a few things you can do to stay alive. First, find water. Water can be your best friend when you are in a forest fire. Not only is the water going to help you stabilize your body temperature but it will also help you stop dehydrating. You can drink water and stay alive.
Remember that it is never wise to drink unfiltered water. But if it comes between dying and not drinking or drink and get sick later, choose the latter.
If you find a water source not only drink the water but also get wet. You should soak your clothes and body completely. By doing this it allows you to have just a little more protection from the heat of the forest fire.
Control Fire Line
You can only run for so long before your body gives out. The best method for surviving a forest fire is to create a fire camp. A fire camp is a method of pre-burning an area and building a mud shelter. By creating a fire line you can burn everything before the fire gets to you. The general idea is that you know that the fire is coming, then if it is headed right for you then you can create a controlled fire. The idea is to create a fire and let it spread. As it begins to get big you can then put the back of the fire out and allow the front of the fire to just burns. By doing this you are removing all of the fuel for the big forest fire to burn, and therefore keeping the fire from reaching you. This is a great technique to use if you know there is a forest fire headed for your home. Before starting this though you should coordinate with local firefighters so they know what is going on, also they can also give you some support too, especially if you offer them lunch.
Just a note to have, if you are trying to get help with anything dealing with people by offering food tends to help ease their minds a little more.
Just using a fire line to protect yourself is not going to be sufficient. You need to have a barrier between you and the fire. Mud tends to work really well for this. A mud shelter is great for keeping heat away from you. Remember to make mud you need water so you will need to find a water source so that you have plenty of water and mud to work with.
Also, note that if your home is in line of a forest fire then you can pack mud to the side of your house in order to keep it from burning. For a house it is time-consuming, but if you mix it with a control fire line, then you should be able to save your home.
Falling Trees & Branches
Finally, the biggest threat in forest fires happens both before and after the fire, the widowmaker tree. After trees have been burned they become weak. Whether you are walking through a recently burned area, a currently on fire area, or know that you are going to be in a forest fire, you should learn to keep looking up. Large tree branches or tree trunks are extremely dangerous. They can weigh up to several thousand pounds and kill instantly. Also, the smaller branches can hit with a great deal of force if they fall from high up. If they hit you, they can not only break bones but trap you. Firefighters that are killed in forest fires are normally killed because of widowmaker trees. Move carefully, and stay alert.