Wildfires, including forest fires, are a major concern when travelling overland, or camping.
Whilst some regions have a higher risk factor for wildfires, they can occur in many types of vegetation. An exceptionally dry summer for example will also raise the risk in a region not otherwise associated with wildfires.
|“||Only You Can Prevent Wildfires!||”|
- Be careful when smoking. Find a safe method for ash and match disposal before lighting up.
- Respect directives from authorities. During the dry season, open fires are usually prohibited or require a permit from the local fire authority. Be very careful also with camping stoves and even indoor wood fired stoves (might there be glowing matter going out the chimney?).
- Fireworks are a hazard if misused or if used during extreme dry conditions.
- Dispose of your rubbish properly. Something as simple as a discarded bottle can act as a lens, and loose packaging adds fuel.
- If driving, be aware that parts of your car might get hot, and ignite vegetation. Off-road vehicles (all-terrain vehicles/quads) may pose a risk of hot spots or sparks. Stop at safe spots. If you have a fire extinguisher, check that it is in easy reach (and controlled as recommended).
- Drought and thunderstorms, especially in combination, heighten the risk of wildfires. The so-called "crossover" (temperature in °C exceeds relative humidity in percent) or "30-30-30" conditions (where temperatures soar above 30°C/90°F, humidity plunges below 30% and winds whip around above 30km/h / 20mph) are a recipe for disaster as, under hot, dry and windy conditions, anything can burn relatively easily.
- If in an area with wildfires or high risk of wildfire, follow some media channel where you will hear about warnings (or check with your hotel).
- If you do see any suspicious smoke, don't be afraid to call the fire brigade. It may be nothing more than an innocent camping fire, but its still better to have firefighters check it out in case it's the start of a major wildfire.
You do NOT want to start a wildfire. One cigarette stump in the wrong place can cause destruction of vast areas. A wildfire can also be started by something as simple as improperly discarded trash. The wildfire can in some circumstances begin hours after you left.
Wildfires can spread fast in windy conditions. You have to have good margins in an unknown area, where your road or your means of transportation may be affected.
The smoke from wildfires is unhealthy. Major wildfires from hundreds of kilometres away can sometimes be similar to passive smoking – possibly a real problem if you have asthma or similar.
Under NO circumstances, be tempted to go "fire chasing", the wildfire could change in direction or intensity trapping you unexpectedly. A vehicle in this context also creates an unnecessary (and avoidable) obstruction on roads and trails which emergency crews will require access to.
Also when the fire has been extinguished, a burnt forest can be dangerous, as roots can have been damaged. Wait until the area is declared safe or storms have taken down the weakened trees.