Health & Safety

May 2, 2014

Prepare for wildfire survival – before another one starts

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Lucius Kirkland, Fire Inspector
Fort Huachuca Fire Department

The Brown Fire puts up a huge column of smoke in the Huachuca Mountains on April 16. If not prepared already, people should get ready for wildfire season now by clearing areas around their homes and packing “to go” bags to grab and take with them should there be a need to quickly evacuate.

The recent Brown, O’Donnell and Aerostat Fires should be a wake-up call that fire season is here, and people should prepare now if they haven’t already done so.

To increase the chance of surviving a wildfire, the Fort Huachuca Office of Fire Prevention provides information on what to do if people are unable to evacuate in time, happen to get caught, or choose to stay behind.

Survive in a vehicle
If caught in a wildfire while driving, a person may be able to survive a wildfire by staying in the car. This is dangerous and should only be done in an emergency, but it is far 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 smoke and sparks may get into 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 sparsely vegetated area on the back side of a steep mountainside where fuel is scarce is safest.

Avoid canyons, natural “chimneys” and saddles. If a road is nearby, go to it and 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 fire’s heat.

If hiking in the back country, seek a depression with sparse fuel. Clear as much vegetation away from the area as possible while the fire is getting closer. Then lie face down in the depression and cover yourself. Stay down until the fire passes.
Plan, prepare, be aware

With general knowledge, people can ensure they are adequately prepared for and able to survive wildfires. The ideal time to prepare is now, before fire danger increases.

Currently, natural conditions are right for a wildfire at any time.

During ‘high,’ ‘very high’ and ‘extreme’ fire conditions, restrictions change to protect people, their communities and surrounding areas, increasing as the fire danger level rises. Before going hiking, know current fire conditions and learn the Fort Huachuca requirements for outdoor recreation. Obey posted signs and stay out of closed canyons.

As fire danger heightens, rules change for recreational activities involving campfires, barbecues, open fires and even smoking. Use of open flame may be completely restricted, as well as smoking outdoors.

Fire information, including restrictions and area closures, is continuously updated. Before heading out to enjoy the outdoors, call the Fort Huachuca Fire Dispatch center, 533.1535, or the Fire Prevention Office, 533.1870/1887, for the latest fire updates.

Also be aware that U.S. Army Garrison Policy 019, Discarding of Cigarettes/Cigars, provides details about discarding smoking material on Fort Huachuca. To check on this policy or to obtain a copy, call the Fire Prevention Office at the numbers provided above.




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