If there is hell on earth, it would look pretty much like the scenes captured in this video of a family escaping the wildfire that swept through 246sq km of forest in California, destroying their home and community in the process.
Though we won’t don’t experience such intense and fast-spreading forest fires on our side of the world, there are tips to be learnt on what you should do if you do find yourself driving through a section of jungle or peat swamp that is ablaze.
Tip 1: Don’t stop. If you would have noticed in the video, despite the chaos going around, the driver doesn’t care to stop the vehicle and gawk at the scenery, which is good because smoke can easily overwhelm the car and the driver. In such conditions it is best to keep moving and get as far away from the fire and smoke as possible. In his harrowing account, the driver managed to get out of the house just as the fire was in front of their driveway and drove through 14km of this inferno to get to safety.
Tip 2: Keep a steady speed. In moments like this the most important thing is not to panic. Don’t speed because the last thing you want to do is crash into the blazing inferno and strand yourself. The danger is also increased several fold due to the smoke obscuring visibility. Instead keep a calm and steady pace, switch on your lights, watch out for obstacles that might have fallen on the road, and be ever vigilant to take evasive manoeuvres.
Tip 3: Keep the windows rolled up. As mentioned before there will be plenty of smoke when vegetation in the vicinity is on fire, so keep the windows rolled up and the air conditioning set to its recirculation mode. This is to ensure the smoke outside doesn’t enter the car as it can easily overwhelm you.
Tip 4: If for whatever reason you need to stop, stop behind a non-flammable structure or in a clearing. Besides the fire, radiant heat from the fire is also deadly as cars don’t provide much protection from it. For that it is good to put something between your car and the fire, preferably a concrete structure. If not, find a clearing that is free from any flammable objects such as trees and vegetation.
Tip 5: Keep occupants away from the windows, and below the window line. This is to ensure that your occupants won’t be in danger from any falling debris or heat from the fire.
Tip 6: Don’t leave the vehicle. Vehicles aren’t very good at keeping the heat away, but it is better than getting out and getting trapped in the open. At the very least a car can keep you away from the smoke and much of the radiant heat from the fire.