Driving Safely During Wildfire Season in California

Categories: Personal Injury
  • January 1, 2017 through July 8, 2017, there were 2,750 fires in California that burned 79,861 acres.
  • During the same time period in 2018, there were 2,964 fires that burned 91,646 acres.
  • The five year average for the same time period is 2,811 fires and 36,967 acres burned.

The statistics above are from CalFire and may be underestimated, according to some reports. Other numbers say that there have been 196,092 acres burned across the state to date. No matter which numbers are the most accurate, one thing is for certain: This year’s wildfire season is already the worst in recorded history.

California experienced a tremendous period of drought from 2012 through 2017. The dead vegetation has left shrubs, trees and grasses dead and ready to burn. The dry vegetation has made it difficult to bring wildfires under control as they speed through forests. Deputy Chief of CalFire, Scott McLean, said, “We are going to be dealing with the impacts of that drought for many years.”

Knowing how to react when you encounter a wildfire in your vehicle is important. Your behavior can keep you safe and help you avoid a collision. If you are in a crash, a San Luis Obispo car accident lawyer can assist you. Read on to learn how to avoid the perils of a wildfire.

Driving Safely During Wildfire Season

Driving during wildfire season is no different than driving during any other time of year unless, of course, you encounter a wildfire. If you are forced to evacuate your home or encounter a fire while driving, there are maneuvers you can take to keep yourself as safe as possible.

1. Stay Ahead of the Fire

Don’t wait until the last minute to evacuate. Staying ahead of the fire is the best way to maintain your safety. If you are told to evacuate, do so even if the order is worded in such a way that your leaving is voluntary.

2. Slow and Steady

If you encounter a fire or thick clouds of smoke, keep your vents closed and your headlights on. Stay alert for other drivers and pedestrians. Drive slowly and stay aware. There could be wildlife or livestock trying to get away just like you are.

If you cannot see through the wall of smoke, know that others are having the same difficulty. Don’t be afraid to use your horn to alert people to your presence.

3. Look for a Structure

If you are forced to stop your vehicle due to a nearby fire, look for a solid structure to park next to. The structure will block some of the heat that you experience.

If there is no structure, try to park in as open a space as possible. Trees, shrubs and other combustibles should be avoided if possible.

4. Stay In Your Car When Facing a Fire

Resist the urge to get out of your car and run. Few people can outrun a wildfire, meaning you will be safer in your vehicle. Get down on the floor and cover yourself with a blanket if you have one.

Understand that your car may sway from the wind and that sparks could enter your vehicle. It will be easy to panic, but remaining as calm as possible will help you think clearly and make smart decisions.

5. Get Out When It’s Safe

Exit your vehicle once the fire wall has passed. Call emergency services and wait for instructions.

Speak to a San Luis Obispo Car Accident Lawyer Today

Reach out to our office if you are involved in a car accident caused by a third party. We are a San Luis Obispo car accident attorney and are here to protect your rights. Your first consultation will be held at no cost to you.