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Surviving Wildfire While in Your Car

What is a Wildfire?

A wildfire or a forest fire is an untamed blaze that can burn acres of land in unbelievably quick time. Most wildfires are caused by unattended campsites or happen in areas suffering from drought. States like California often experience droughts and wildfires due to water deficiencies and other factors. Since it never hurts to have the knowledge, if you’re ever traveling in an area that’s prone to wildfires, here are a few suggestions for making your way out safely.

Driving During a Wildfire

Lack of moisture can fuel wildfires at an uncontrollable rate. Being in your car during a wildfire is fairly dangerous, but it is safer than trying to outrun the fire. The small space in your car can heat up quickly, so it’s best to avoid driving in the area if you can. However, if you have no choice, close all your air vents and roll up all the windows. Then, turn on the air conditioning and set it to recirculation.

If you see smoke and have a chance to get ahead of the fire, turn around and drive in the other direction, aiming for a moderate speed. It may serve you best to keep your hazard lights and regular headlights on to increase your visibility. If you’re on a small road, there may be other vehicles or pedestrians who might not see you. With people panicking and low visibility, you’ll need to drive with extra caution to avoid any sudden collisions.

Pulling Over

If there’s a solid structure you can park behind, do so in order to block the radiant heat. If there isn’t a solid structure for you to park behind, stop in a clear area. Make sure you’re in an area that is far from combustible material. While there, leave your car running and try to stay hydrated. If you have a cloth or rag with water to spare, wet the cloth so you can breathe through it.

While waiting for the fire to pass, get below window level to the floor as low as you can with a woolen blanket. Remove any synthetics that might melt or cause severe burns. After the fire has passed, get out of the car and try to tend to anyone who may need it; then, call for help and drive away if your car is still functioning (it may stall or not start again).

Wildfires aren’t limited to the western region or rural areas. A wildfire can happen in any area that has had little rainfall. The most important thing to take away is to remain calm without getting out of the car.

Think you or someone you know is in need of Behind the Wheel Training? Training Wheels is a Somers Point driving school specializing in teaching new teen drivers how to stay safe on the road. For more information on our lessons, please click here.

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