There is a persistent myth that a large percentage of people who perish during a wildfire die in their vehicles. This is not true. In fact, hundreds of thousands of people have safely evacuated in vehicles during wildfires. That is not to say that no deaths have occurred when people are in a vehicle, but that rarely happens and typically involves unusual circumstances.
Here is some excellent advice from Virginia Tech University:
If you encounter a wildfire while driving:
- Stay in the car. Though driving through wildfire is dangerous, it is much less dangerous than trying to run from a fire on foot. Do not run! The steel body of a car will provide protection from flames, heat and burning embers. Roll up windows and close air vents. Be prepared for discomfort.
- Engines may stall and be tough to restart.
- Air currents may rock the car.
- Some smoke and sparks may enter the vehicle.
- The temperature inside will increase. Metal gas tanks and containers rarely explode.
- Keep the vehicle as visible as possible.
- Drive slowly with headlights on.
- Avoid driving through heavy smoke.
- Watch out for other vehicles and pedestrians.
- If you have to stop,
- Avoid parking near heavy trees and brush.
- Roll up windows and close air vents.
- Turn the headlights on and the ignition off.
- Get on the floor and cover up with a blanket or coat.
- Stay in the vehicle until the main fire passes.
If you do not have a vehicle to evacuate, make a plan now to carpool with a neighbor. In an emergency, we all need to be ready to help each other to get out safely.