It’s summer! The days are longer, the sun is brighter, and the temperatures are higher. Do you know what this means for most of the western United States? If you guessed Wildfire Season you guessed right. It’s a sad reality for many western states. From May to October wildfires present tremendous risk to our National Forests and a huge potential to destroy them. Wildfires can begin in a heartbeat and spread within minutes. Do you know Wildfire Safety while camping or boondocking?
Recently, I stayed at Lake Cochiti campgrounds. Just as I settled in, I received notice to evacuate due to wildfires spreading only five miles away. I was close to the Cerro Pelado Wildfire near Santa Fe, New Mexico. I’d been watching the smoke come over the ridge for a few days. But, I was told it wouldn’t cross over into the campground. Well, that assumption and information were DEAD wrong.
When I had to rush to pack up and leave, it got me thinking. I spend a lot of time in forests. I need to arm myself with more information about what to do in case of wildfires.
A few months ago, I released a video about preparing for weather emergencies, but I didn’t talk about wildfires. And the honest answer is I didn’t know how to talk about it. I’d never experienced it as a danger while boondocking. Well, now I can talk about wildfire preparedness. I’ve done the research to find tools, apps, and resources to help me prepare. Having armed myself with knowledge, I feel safer while camping on public lands and I don’t fear getting caught in a wildfire. I’ve done the work, so you don’t have to start from scratch.
Ready? Let’s dive into how to stay safe if a wildfire breaks out while you are camping or boondocking.
NO TIME TO READ AND WANT TO LISTEN TO THE ORIGINAL VIDEO ABOUT MY WILDFIRE EXPERIENCE FROM MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL? WATCH NOW.
Boondocking on public lands adds an extra element of danger for recreational vehicle dwellers. I’m sharing what I learned about boondocking safely in national forests (since that’s where most of the wildfires are), tools for staying informed on fires in your area, and how to be prepared if you need to evacuate.
#1 DO NOT GO OFF-GRID!
If you are within 100-miles of a wildfire, stay within range for cell signal. You need to have your location, GPS, and emergency alerts on at all times. High winds accompany wildfires and can change at any time, changing the direction without warning.
#2 KNOW Where You Are. You need to know the closest towns around you. Remember, boondocking in a forest alone means no one will be there to tell you to evacuate or what town to head to or away from. After you are settled, take a look at what type of emergency alert system the towns use. If a town near you gets evacuated, YOU NEED TO GO! Don’t stay, pack up and get moving to safety.
#3 Don’t Camp Alone. While solitude is great, (and you all know how much I like camping alone!) in this situation, if you know you are near wildfires, there is safety in numbers. You never know who might have a resource, like a HAM Radio, to help receive information about the fire and evacuation notices.
#4 Make a Plan. Prepare ahead of time! Have an evacuation plan, know how you came in. Find an alternate route out, if possible. If you think you might need to make a quick getaway, bring all your things inside and stowed for travel, bring in your awning and anything else that will take you more than 5 or 10 minutes to pack up. Look at the towns around you and find their emergency evacuation routes. Know your way out!
FEMA: Fema.gov and available in your app store. You can sign-up for email and text alerts. You can enter up to 5 locations and you can change them as you move around. Make sure you locate towns north, south, east, and west of where you are camping.
National Weather Service: Website weather.gov and available in your app store.
Clime App: Fire Weather Alerts
Fire, Weather & Avalanche Center: FireWeatherAvalanche.org and search FWAC in your app store: This website/app will show you how big the fire is, containment, weather conditions, smoke drift, and more.
Ready.gov/wildfires: National service to help people prepare for disasters and emergencies.
Smokeybear.com: Learn more about Wild Fires and Wild Fire behavior. The more knowledge you have, the more confident you will be when needing to respond in this type of situation.
TIP: You can GOOGLE search the fire name to find more specific and updated information as well! Stay proactive and know the name of the fire(s) in your area. Typically, this search brings up a link to local information reported about the fire and possible Facebook pages to follow for local police and fire.
Having accurate, current information about your surroundings can be critical for anyone living a nomad life or even if you are just a recreational camper. Knowing how to stay safe near wildfires while camping or boondocking and having a safety plan can be the difference between life and death for you. Literally.
Wildfires are fierce and unpredictable and often uncontainable. Know your surroundings, and have a plan. Be prepared, be happy, be free, and be safe this summer.
DISCLAIMER: Carolyn’s RV Life and Carolyn Higgins share her experiences, thoughts, opinions and ideas in this blog post and on this website for entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, instruction or guidance. Viewers/Readers should consult with professionals before pursing any actions or behaviors exhibited in this video. Carolyn’s RV Life or Carolyn Higgins cannot be held liable in the event of any accident or injury that may occur as a result of application of procedures and information provided in this video.