In part three of a four-part series on wildfire preparation and survival, the Fort Huachuca Office of Fire Prevention provides information on what to do if you are unable to evacuate in time, happen to get caught, or choose to stay behind to increase your chances of survival.
Survive in a vehicle
This is dangerous and should only be done in an emergency, but a person may be able to survive a wildfire by staying in their car. It is also 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.
Those who have to stop should park away from the heaviest trees and brush. Turn headlights on and the 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.
Do not attempt to outrun the fire. Vehicle engines may stall and not restart. Air currents may also rock the car, and some smoke and sparks may enter the vehicle.
The temperature inside will increase; however metal gas tanks and containers rarely explode.
If trapped at home
Those who find themselves trapped by wildfire inside their homes should stay inside and away from outside walls. Close doors, but leave them unlocked. Keep the entire family together, and remain calm.
If caught in the open
The best temporary shelter is in a sparse fuel area. A steep mountainside where fuel is scarce or the back side is safest.
Avoid canyons, natural â€œchimneysâ€ 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 fireâ€™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.
With planning, preparation, situational awareness and general knowledge, people can ensure they are adequately prepared for and able to survive events such as last yearâ€™s Monument Fire and other similar events. The time to prepare is before fire danger is â€˜high.â€™
Even though a strong monsoonal flow is currently underway and the likelihood of a wildfire seems slim, once monsoon ends and especially if it ends early, the lush vegetation will dry out once more. At some point, whether this year or next spring, natural conditions will again be right for wildfire potential.