Image of the March 2015 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
March 2015 Issue
Home / Articles / Skills

Escape a forest fire

In the right conditions, forest fires can spread rapidly. PHOTO: Alex Indigo, Creative Commons

A dry hot summer provides perfect conditions for wildfires, writes Mountain Safety Council’s Jennifer Hayto

Forest fires such as those seen recently in North Canterbury and Tasman are a reminder of how lethal the threat can be – particularly in the hotter months. They often occur due to hot temperatures and dry climates, though many wildfires are also caused by negligence and sometimes even lit on purpose.

If you are caught in a forest fire, don’t panic. Use the STOP principle: Stop, Think, Observe and Plan.

Fire often behaves in a predictable way; it moves faster downwind, uphill or through a valley.

If you can’t escape the smoke and are trapped, try to find an open area with little or nothing that can burn. Get low to the ground and cover your mouth.

Most synthetic materials melt at low temperatures, so remove items such as your pack and any synthetic clothing. Wool and other natural fibres offer the best protection against flames and heat.