Campground Wildfire Evacuations: How To Stay Safe This Season
Wildfire season seems to coincide with every camping season in the western states of the US and in the western provinces of Canada. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the three states with the highest risk for wildfires are California, Texas, and Colorado.
Wildfires are often unpredictable, and they can move very rapidly, putting lives and property in danger in minutes. They can also be deadly. In 2018, 86 people perished in the Camp Fire in California. Hundreds of people have perished in wildfires over the last 50 years, in spite of the best wildfire evacuation efforts of emergency services personnel.
While it’s obviously best to avoid areas where wildfires are already happening, how do you stay safe when you’re camping and a wildfire suddenly starts in the area? In this article, we’re going to discuss important safety tips for staying safe during wildfire season and what you need to know about a wildfire evacuation.
Always camp safely
It’s always better to avoid a problem than it is to deal with one. This is especially true when it comes to camping during wildfire season.
Fire season varies in different areas, but generally, it lasts from mid-June to October/November. This is a good time to expect the unexpected. Here are a few things you can do to stay safe if there are wildfires or wildfire evacuations.
Know the 30-30-30 rule
Firefighters use this rule to assess the likelihood of extreme wildfire behavior. Although it’s based on metric measurements, it’s easy to use in the US too. If a wildfire starts when the temperature is 30 C (86 F) or above, the relative humidity is 30% or less, and the wind speed is 30km/h (18 mph) or stronger, the weather will exhibit extreme fire behavior.
Extreme fire behavior means the fire is difficult to control and will remain so until weather conditions change. As a general rule, avoid camping in a forested or bush area when the temperature is over 86 F, it hasn’t rained for awhile, and there is a chance the wind speeds could pick up to more than 18 mph.
Know about active wildfires before you camp
In addition to listening to the news, there are many weather and wildfire apps that you can download onto your mobile device. These apps can tell you what the weather will be or where active wildfires are. In addition, wildfire maps such as the one from Fire Information Resource Management Systems (FIRMS) or RV LIFE Trip Wizard can show you where active wildfires are.
Camp where there is cell service
You can learn more about campgrounds and the cell service available on RV LIFE Campground Reviews.
It’s also a good idea to let people know exactly where you are camping.
Avoid camping in box canyons during fire season
Box canyons have steep sides and only one way in and out of them. When there’s a wildfire, a box canyon acts like a chimney, rapidly drawing hot air and fire through it, making an escape unlikely. If there’s a fire and you need to get out of the area, it’s good to have options.
Know the campground evacuation route before you camp
When you register for your campsite, find out where the evacuation route is and familiarize your family with it. Don’t count on being directed in the event of an evacuation.
Carry paper road maps with you
Don’t count on having cell service in a wildfire emergency. With RV LIFE Pro, you can also easily download offline maps for easy reference even when you don’t have service.
Abide by fire bans
Fire bans are made by fire authorities after an assessment of wildfire risk has been made. If there is a fire ban, it’s there for a good reason and it applies to you.
Find out from campground officials or the local fire service if you can still barbecue in a hibachi or enjoy a propane fire.
Don’t start a wildfire
According to the National Park Service, humans cause 86% of all forest fires. Don’t be that person that causes a forest to burn.
- Use an ashtray to put cigarettes out.
- Extinguish your campfire thoroughly (you should be able to put your hand on it).
- Don’t leave any flame unattended.
- Don’t light fireworks in hot/dry conditions.
- Don’t let children play with fire.
Carry a well-maintained, working fire extinguisher in your RV.
Have a grab-and-go bag ready in case you have to evacuate
You may not have time to pack up and get a trailer hooked up if you need to leave in a hurry. A grab-and-go bag will have:
- Food for a few days
- Water (perhaps other beverages too) for three days
- A first aid kit
- Documents and insurance papers
- Important personal items
- Pet food, treats, and water for three days. Remember to pack some bowls too.
Have a family emergency plan
Have a meeting place and ensure everyone in your group knows where to meet if there is a wildfire evacuation.
When you are evacuated, stick to the official evacuation plan
Check in at the evacuation center and let them know that you are safe so emergency management personnel won’t waste resources making sure you got out safely.
The key to staying safe during wildfire season lies in planning and preparation. Practicing fire-safe camping habits and avoiding areas that are prone to wildfires will go a long way to keeping forests (and yourself) safe from wildfires.
You should always familiarize yourself with the local evacuation plan and be prepared to evacuate. Don’t assume you’ll be safe just because you are allowed to camp in an area.
Avoid wildfires on an RV-safe route
For help mapping out your route for your next RV getaway, look no further than RV LIFE Trip Wizard. This online planning tool makes it easy to plan an RV-safe route. It can also locate interesting sites along the way, all according to your travel preferences. Plus, you can use the wildfire layers under the map settings to avoid areas with active wildfires. Get RV LIFE Trip Wizard with its accompanying RV LIFE App, and start planning your adventure today!