Nature, Weather & Space

Here’s What You Should Do If You Get Trapped By A Wildfire

Your strategy depends on where and how you get trapped.

Maybe there were evacuation orders that you failed to heed. Or maybe you didn’t get any warnings at all, and suddenly find yourself trapped by a fast-moving inferno.

Either way, the choices you make when a wildfire approaches could help save your life.

Here’s what you should do depending on your location, courtesy of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (also known as Cal Fire):

If You’re In Your Car:

  • Stay calm and call 911.
  • Park your vehicle in an area clear of vegetation.
  • Close all vehicle windows and vents.
  • If you have a cotton or wool blanket or jacket, cover yourself with it. Why? “To try and deflect some of the radiant heat off of you,” Cal Fire Deputy Chief Scott McLean said.
  • Lie on the floor of your vehicle.

wildfire photo
Getty Images | David McNew

If You’re At Home:

Keep your family together and call 911.

  • Fill sinks and tubs with cold water. “As a fire comes through, you will more than likely lose power, which in turn will cause the pump from your well not to function,” McLean said. “This is a way to stock up on water.”
  • Keep doors and windows closed but unlocked.
  • Stay inside your house.
  • Stay away from outside walls and windows.
Multiple Wildfires Continue To Ravage Through California Wine Country
Getty Images | David McNew

If You’re Stuck Outside:

  • Call 911, of course.
  • Try to find a place free from vegetation, such as a ditch or depression on level ground.
  • Lie face down and cover your body. “You want to protect your airway,” McLean said. “That is what the leading cause of death in a fire is — that you inhale those hot gases produced by a fire, and they compromise your airway.”

Written by Holly Yan for CNN.

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