Outdoor Safety & Ethics

Forest Fires

Scrub forest ablazeWe want our visitors to be aware and be prepared. Most important is following the direction of any official in case of a fire. However, the following tips may help you in the backcountry.

How should I prepare for fire danger while hiking?
  • When planning a hike, check on the weather, fire conditions of the area, and ask about any special restrictions that may affect your trip. Notices may also be posted on bulletin boards at trailheads and recreation areas.
  • Keep an eye on all horizons during the day. Should you see smoke, watch to see if it is getting bigger. If so, retreat or otherwise turn away from the direction the fire appears to be traveling.
  • Note the direction of the wind and watch for blowing embers.
What should I do if I am near a fire?
  • Look for escape routes like dirt roads, trails, gravel areas, large rock outcroppings, asphalt, etc. Head for one of these areas.
  • Avoid going uphill from a fire. Remember, heat rises rapidly and the fire will outrun you to the top of a hill.
  • If the fire is gaining on you, look for places with the least amount of burnable fuels. Fine grasses are the carrier of fire, so stomp and scrape an area with your feet if necessary. The larger area you create that is free from any type of burnable fuel will give you that much more protection.
  • Stay away from trees, thickets and brushy areas. Avoid the top end of any gully drainage. These areas act like chimneys that propel fire and heat rapidly.
What should I do if I think a fire will overtake me?
  • Use a jacket, backpack, hat or other items to shield yourself from the heat as you travel.
  • If necessary, lie down on a dirt surface, feet pointing toward the approaching flames. Even loose dirt may give you some protection if scooped over your feet or legs.
  • When the fire has passed, continue to look for the best escape routes.
What should I do if I am in an area of fire while biking?
  • Follow the same rules as above. Remember to have a jacket or other protective gear with you. Even lightweight cloth spread over a bike frame will allow you a small amount protection if the fire overtakes you.
  • Because fire generates its own wind, you will need to hold tightly to any jackets, hats, backpacks or other loose items.
What should I do in my vehicle if I am overtaken by a fire?
  • If you are in a car and a fire overtakes you, STAY IN YOUR VEHICLE! It is safer than being on foot and will give you some protection from the heat.
  • If you must stop, park in the safest place possible, with the least amount of burnable fuel present. Tires may deflate but gas tanks don’t explode easily.
  • Lie on the floor and cover your head and face. Breathe shallow breaths through your nose.
  • As soon as the fire has passed, plan your escape from the area.