Fire has such a huge potential to do so much damage in such a short amount of time that we've got to stay on our toes when camping or even out in the back yard. Always be conscientious when dealing with fire. Whether you're urban or rural, there are easy precautions you can take that will help to ensure you and your properties protection and safety when dealing with fire. On this page are some great tips to help keep you and your home safe, even what to do if you're trapped in the woods during a forest fire.
Things To Consider Before You Build A Fire
Always consider these 3 things before building a fire:
1. Don't Burn In Dry, Hazardous Conditions -
Check to make sure there are no burn bans. Never build a fire in very dry conditions. Partially burned ashes can easily land on dry material such as logs, brush or leaves, smolder and ignite.
2. Find Or Make A Clear Spot -
Make sure the area where you'll build your fire is clear. Even small fires release a lot of heat, so look for any low hanging branches. Keep trees, tents, bushes, extra firewood and any other flammable objects a minimum of 15 feet from the fire.
3. Notice The Wind -
Before you build a fire, notice the wind direction, its strength, and if there are gusts. Choose a site that protects the fire from high winds and wind gusts.
Fire Safety Tips
- Never leave a campfire unattended.
- Always supervise children and pets near a fire.
- Before lighting a fire, always have a water hose or enough water to douse the fire with on hand, plus a shovel and/or metal rake.
- Don't put anything into a fire except wood.
- Always, always, always completely put out a fire before you leave. Make sure the wood and all the embers in your fire are cool to the touch before leaving the fire site. Here are two ways to put it out:
With water -
1. Douse the coals with water
2. Stir the coals around with a shovel
3. Alternately repeat pouring on water and then stirring coals until all the coals are cool to the touch
Without water -
1. Stir dirt into the embers with a shovel.
2. Alternately repeat adding dirt and then stirring coals until all the coals are cool to the touch
How To Prepare A Fire Pit
Properly preparing a fire pit in 3 easy steps:
1. Clear the ground in a 10 foot diameter circle. Remove all debris including grass, down to the dirt.
2. Dig down about a foot deep in the center of the circle to make the pit for your fire.
3. Circle the pit with large rocks.
What To Do If You're Trapped In A Forest Fire
Protecting your airways from heat and minimizing smoke exposure is priority #1. Try to breath only the air at the lowest point(through a damp cloth if possible) to minimize smoke inhalation. Next, remain as calm as possible and focus on your next course of action.
If you can't retreat from the fire and reach a safe haven or take refuge in a vehicle or building, here are some other options in no particular order. Note that factors such as the size and intensity of the fire, the ground environment, the size and location of safe areas, prevailing winds, and numerous others will ultimately dictate which option is the best option, which is the second best, etc. for each individual situation:
- Hide. Use every possible means to protect yourself from the heat. Hide in a cave or root cellar, or snug up to or get between any large, natural objects such as; boulders or rock formations, large downed logs, trees, etc. Leave an enclosed area as soon as it's practical to avoid breathing high concentrations of smoke and carbon monoxide.
- Hunker in place. Select the largest area with the least amount of combustible material and if possible, one with a low or depressed area in the ground. Lie flat, and then cover your body with wet clothing, blankets or soil.
- Crouch in a body of water such as a pond or river.
- Burn out a safety area. If there's time and you have a way to make fire, turn so the wind is at your back, and start a fire on the ground in front of you. As the fire moves on ahead, enter that burned out area.
- Pass through the fires edge back into the burned out area. This is extremely risky and it's likely you'll be severely burned, but there have been cases where firefighters have saved themselves by doing just that. Theoretically, a person could pass through flames 10 feet high and 121 feet deep and survive(Chandler et al., 1983), though suffering severe burns as result. This presumes that they would be immersed in flames for less than 7.5 seconds. You would need ideal running conditions and protective clothing that would withstand direct flame contact.
Tips To Help Reduce Forest Fire Damage To Your Home And Property
Taking precautions around your property just makes good sense. All vegetation and other combustible material is fuel for a wildfire. Here are some tips to help you to stay safe and organized:
Identify Your Property From The Road -
Here are three tips that make it easier for firefighters to find your property:
1. Make sure roads leading to your property are clearly marked.
2. Make sure your house number is easily visible from the roadside
3. Make sure the road is wide enough so that firefighting equipment can get through
How Safe Are You? -
Examine these areas to help determine how safe your property is in the event of a fire:
1. What is the fire resistance of your home and nearby buildings?
2. What is the topography of your property?
3. What is the nature of the vegetation on and around your property? Note that some vegetation is more flammable than others.
Create Zones Of "Defensible Space" Around Your Home
Creating "zones" that extend out from your home is an efficient way to organize your fire preparedness and identify areas that need work:
Zone 1(extends 30 feet out from your home) -
Remember that the greater the distance between your home and the vegetation, the greater the protection:
1. Keep the volume of vegetation in zone 1 to a minimum
2. Clear out leaves, brush, dead limbs and fallen trees regularly
3. Remove any limbs under 15 feet high on trees
4. Keep branches and shrubs at least 15 feet away from chimneys and stove pipes
5. Stack firewood 100 feet away and uphill from the house
6. Keep gas grills and propane tanks at least 15 feet away from house.
If you live on a hill, extend the zone downhill since fire spreads rapidly uphill. The steeper the slope, the more open space you'll need to protect your home.
Zone 2(extends between 30 and 100 feet out from your home) -
1. Reduce vegetation and reduce or replace as much of the most flammable vegetation as possible.
2. Remove any limbs under 10 feet high on trees within 90 feet of structures. This helps to prevent ground fires from climbing low hanging limbs and potentially becoming crown fires.
Credit For Content:
Forest Ecology and Management 234S (2006) S6 "You are about to be entrapped or burned over by a wildfire: What are your survival options?" M.E. Alexander