4 Tactics to Help Hikers Survive Wildfires
March 16, 2022

In the past, surviving wildfires was never a worry for hikers. But, due to extreme heat waves and dry forest conditions worsened by climate change, wildfires can now explode faster than you can imagine – even fast enough to catch up with hikers. There are several cases of wildfires today, and it’s become essential to stay prepared.

Here are five tactics to help you survive wildfires.

1. Locate a Safe Spot

Find a location free of flammable materials like trees, dried grass, scrub, and shrubs. Typically, a large area with less vegetation is the ideal safe spot. This could be a green meadow, rock slide, a lake, or a large rock slide.

Once you find a safe spot, shield yourself from the radiant heat and hide behind a log or boulder. Cover your face with a cloth to not breathe hot air or lay on the ground face-down. Then remain calm and wait for the front fire to pass.

If you’re looking to wade into a nearby lake, keep in mind that the water should not be over your head, and it mustn’t be too shallow that it can’t cover your body.

2. Hunker Down

If you can’t find a safe spot, consider hunkering down wherever you are. And while you do, hide behind a large boulder, a fallen log, a tree, or any shelter around you. Dig a slight depression into the ground if you can’t locate one.

Then lay on the ground and cover your mouth with a piece of cloth. Pockets of cool air from the ground will prevent you from inhaling the hot air and smoke from the fire. You can also cover your body with dirt to insulate you from the heat.

3. Burn out a Spot to Make Your Safe Zone

If you find yourself in an open space with substantial dead grass, it’d be best to light a fire to burn that vegetation before the wildfire passes through. This requires that you have a reasonable amount of time to start the fire and let it burn such a space enough for you lay in. Follow the tips for hunkering down while waiting for the fire to pass by.

This tip is an excellent option in a fast grass fire with few places to shelter you from the heat. It won’t work in a forest where burning out an area would take too long.

4. Run Through the Fire into the Burned Out Area

This may appear counterintuitive, but experts have recommended that if you sight a burned-out space or safe spot through the flame, running through the fire rather than outrunning it or hunkering down may be a safer option.

Remember to wrap your face in a cloth to protect your throat or airway, and avoid inhaling the heated air, so you don’t burn your throat. While running, keep in mind to hold your breath. This is not to be attempted if the fire is more than five feet tall or the flame has five feet deep fire-front.

If followed to the letter, these tactics will help you survive wildfires.