About 9,100 forest fires occur annually in Canada, burning a total of 25,000 square kilometres each year. This represents about 0.6% of Canada’s total forested area. Over 60% are started by people, most by accident, and 35% by lightning (the remaining 5% must be zombies).
If You Detect A Fire
Leave the area as soon as possible. A fire that moves across the treetops can arrive very quickly when winds are strong. Travel downhill – fire travels 4-5 times faster uphill than downhill. Lower slopes tend to be moister than middle slopes, offering better protection.
If There Is No Escape
Consider the following:
- Seek protection in a depressed or open area, such as a meadow, on rocks, or in a pond or stream,
- Create a secure area by starting a fire downwind, then remain in the burnt region. The fire can’t burn in an area where there’s no fuel,
- Avoid narrow valleys and steep slopes – they often act as a chimney for a fire,
- Clear the ground of all burnable materials within 7 metres of you,
- Lay face down and bury your face,
- Cover yourself with dry sand or dirt, a wool or cotton blanket,
- Remove all synthetic clothing – it will melt in the heat and stick to your body (if you are wilderness camping, this is likely everything you are wearing)
- Cover your body with natural materials like cotton or wool,
- Discard any stove fuel,
- Do not wet your clothes – the moisture will scald your skin when heated,
- Cover your mouth to filter out the smoke with a dry cloth – a wet cloth will produce steam and scald your mouth and lungs.
- When the fire is upon you, it can deplete all the oxygen for several minutes as it passes. Be prepared for this – do not panic. Oxygen will return once the fire passes,
When all the above is not possible, consider running into the fire to reach a burnt and safe area on the other side of the “firewall.” This works best if the flames are 4 feet tall or less. Make certain you cover your skin and hair, and you are not wearing synthetic materials.