Don’t Get Smoked: Surviving a Wild Fire. The Cape is one of six places on earth where the terrain, fuel and climate that foster devastating wildfires. As most outdoor adventure happens on the mountains in fynbos it is important to be aware of fires this time of year.
Fire season in the Cape starts in November and ends in April. These hot, dry and windy months have been host to the destruction of natural vegetation, property, animals and human lives in the past.
Most of these fires are started by human negligence and take an unbelievable about of resources to extinguish.
If you are venturing outdoors and into fynbos please adhere to the safety policies set out by the relevant parks authority. Do not light any cooking or camp fires and make sure you extinguish your cigarettes in a safe place.
There is a method for calculating the imminence of fire but to make it simple all you need to know is that the hotter, dryer and more windy it gets, the more chance there is for a fire to ignite and spread wildly.
A while ago I posted some safety tips on the outdoors. One of them was to check the weather conditions for the day you were going out. A good idea would include the news for any fire reports. The Volunteer Wildfire Services twitter page is a great place to get updates of fire activity.
A couple quick things to know about fire. It moves quickly uphill and is driven by the wind. If you are on a hillside and can see flames below you do not try to escape uphill. In the same regard move in the opposite direction of the wind providing that you are not moving into smoke or flames. An easy way to check the direction of a fire is the direction of the smoke column.
If you are out and happen to miss all reports and you start to smell or see smoke, do not venture further to investigate. Rather evacuate the area the way you came and get to an open and safe area. Smoke is an incredibly debilitating by-product of fire. It is disorientating and suffocating and is only the warm up to the heat and flames.
Fire does not distinguish between vegetation and human. Get out of the vegetation and to a safe area. Rule of thumb is anything four times the length of the flames. A water source, bare rocks, open road or field can all be safe zones depending on the size of the fire. At worst a burnt area is also a safe zone.
Once safe you can call 107 or 021 480 7700 and report the fire immediately and if needed, request assistance or an evacuation. Check out SAN Parks in Cape Town for more info.
It is human nature to be inquisitive but be a responsible adventurer and know when to respect nature. Wildfire is extremely unpredictable. Get away as quickly, calmly and safely as you can. Let those trained to deal with this natural disaster take over and live to adventure another day.