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    Fire safety packing list?

    We are planning a trip this summer, part of which will involve a week near the CA/OR border, away from cellphone coverage or Internet. (We live on the East Coast, so will be flying out for this trip, although the rest of our trip will be mainly in cities/towns.) What are best practices for driving through fire country, and then hiking or camping in the same area? I have a reasonable sense of standard hiking gear/tips - mainly looking for heat/fire-specific guidelines.

    Overview:

    - We will be staying in a cabin at a location with other cabins and camp kitchen nearby.
    - Meeting up with other folks, some of whom have been there before (some may live there?), not all of whom I know personally but we will all be in the same group.
    - I'm keeping watch on Cal Fire and the local county updates.
    - We are prepared to change our travel plans if the air quality/heat/fire situation becomes untenable - I'm not THAT set on going to this camp.

    With that said, I always prefer to plan for extremes. I'm looking into renting a satellite phone because I want to make sure we have a way to contact people if we are cut off from the main route in. (3 hours to the nearest airport) We'll bring plenty of water of course and will be properly dressed (hats, cover-up clothing, good shoes/boots etc.). I have a few N95 masks I can bring, in addition to regular masks. The camp has a pool in case we can't drive out (last resort if we have to shelter in place). What else? Are there apps that send alerts if a fire starts nearby? (Obviously, the latter will only be good for as long as we are within cell range.) Topo maps? I've heard of fire shelters but I figure if we are considering that then we shouldn't go! Are we crazy for even considering this trip? :eep:
    Last edited by haraya; 07-05-2021, 12:11 PM.

    #2
    You can camp and hike safely in CA in the summer, you just have to be prepared, pay attention, and be ready to leave.

    As you said, be prepared to hike and camp safely with plenty of water, sunscreen, emergency stuff, supplies, etc.. Bring more water than you think you'll need (the 1gal/person/day should be a min if you're in hot/dry areas or doing higher exertion) including if you need to hunker down and if you need to help other stranded people. An extra tarp or something to provide shade is good to have (ie, you get stuck on a road somewhere).

    Know the area where you'll be camping and hiking in terms of routes in & out. You generally can't walk out of a fire, it moves faster than you can, so don't go off in the wilderness on a long hike or backpacking if there are bad conditions. Have printed maps/directions, don't depend on GPS. Keep your car tank full. If a fire cuts off a road, you'll have to potentially go far around. Know where the ranger stations, police stations, fire stations are in the area you're going to - they'll probably be the command centers if something happens.

    Obviously, if there are active fires near where you're going, by the time you're ready to get there - then cancel the trip or go hang out in the bigger towns & cities - there are tons of things to do in CA.
    CalFire is a good site to monitor and be sure to monitor the weather for the types of dry lightening storms & winds that can spark and flame a wildfire. If the weather looks at all dicey, I wouldn't be going on a long and/or overnight hike that will potentially strand you.

    A regular radio, portable emergency weather radio, and/or sat radio/phone can help you check conditions/hear alerts.

    For a regular cell phone, remember text messages are smaller data packets and much more likely to come through than calls, emails, webpage access... so you could always ask a friend/family member back home to keep an eye on the reports and text you updates too. And bring your spare, fully charge, extra battery pack for the phones.

    I have personally never considered a fire shelter. I err on the side of caution when choosing where I go. The probability of me needing one, using it, and the fire not overwhelming it are pretty small.

    Remember that if they warn you to leave, then LEAVE... don't hang around considering it, just go. Your life is more important than a vacation and getting stuck on a road because a car broke down in front of you, there's an accident, a burning tree fell across the road, whatever... don't leave evacuation to the last minute.

    And all that sounds kind of scary, but really, it's mostly just being prepared and paying attention to the local hazards...that will keep you safe in the vast majority of circumstances.
    I grew up & lived on the East coast/snow zones for a long time - so think of it like how you would tell someone from a place with no snow how to deal with snow, ice, freezing rain, nor'easters, miles long traffic jams due to accidents, power loss, etc. Some of it is up to chance/bad luck, but a lot of things can be accounted for by good planning.

    And then relax and have fun, the west coast is beautiful!
    Last edited by G42; 07-05-2021, 02:41 PM.
    I like all the blues and greys...and all the happy citrus colours too! My search unicorn is the Sapphire Dyneema original Small Shop Bag...

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      #3
      These are all great tips - thanks so much G42!! I've got the crank radio, will go check that it's in my bag. I happen to have just ordered a battery pack (most of the ones we have are old and starting to lose their charges quickly). Thinking about whether a solar charger makes sense. Will see about getting a tarp, too.

      >>if there are active fires near where you're going, by the time you're ready to get there

      What distance constitutes "near" enough for concern? I saw the Lava Fire went from <1,500 acres to 13,000 in one day. That one's about 50 miles (as the crow flies) from where we're headed, though now 70% contained. And there are a couple other fires a little further out. Everything is so dry out there I worry it's easy for something to start. I just don't have a sense of proportion - is 25 miles too close? Two fires within fifty miles? If we smell smoke do we immediately pack up? (The snow analogy is useful, although storms provide somewhat more notice and have a sense of direction and speed attached to them.)

      Thanks again!
      Last edited by haraya; 07-05-2021, 03:38 PM.

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        #4
        Originally posted by haraya View Post
        We are planning a trip this summer, part of which will involve a week near the CA/OR borde
        - We are prepared to change our travel plans if the air quality/heat/fire situation becomes untenable - I'm not THAT set on going to this camp.
        Are we crazy for even considering this trip? :eep:
        Beyond what G42 said probably the biggest thing you can do (if there are no active fires) is watch for upcoming thunderstorms 2 week before you go (and/or whatever your last bailout window is) and of course while you're there. In general, that's what's starting these fires.

        With that, I'll say it's not fun. I just drove through those fires and it's pretty terrible - air quality is horrible and many businesses, even things like starbucks, are closed due to the fires.

        Click image for larger version  Name:	FirePlane1.jpg Views:	1 Size:	383.1 KB ID:	333804

        Click image for larger version  Name:	FireTruckI-5.png Views:	1 Size:	351.3 KB ID:	333805
        Click image for larger version  Name:	grassFire.jpg Views:	1 Size:	503.0 KB ID:	333806

        Click image for larger version  Name:	Fires2.jpg Views:	0 Size:	1.18 MB ID:	333808

        Click image for larger version  Name:	Fires.jpg Views:	0 Size:	652.4 KB ID:	333807

        The red stuff in the first & 4th pic is flame retardant - they're dumping it all over the mountains (you can see one of the planes circled), the freeway is occasionally closed and when its not traffic is horrendous, so be prepared for things to be closed and/or trouble getting to things that are open (i.e., always have a full tank and don't miss an opportunity to refill).

        I'd say your biggest things to bring are N95s (or N100s) & full eye goggles in case you've got to get out, but, of course, your best bet is not to be there when there's a large fire, and it's usually lightning that starts the fires in the mountains.
        Last edited by GrussGott; 07-05-2021, 07:03 PM.
        Seeking Verde Aeronauts

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          #5
          Originally posted by haraya View Post

          >>if there are active fires near where you're going, by the time you're ready to get there

          What distance constitutes "near" enough for concern? I saw the Lava Fire went from <1,500 acres to 13,000 in one day. That one's about 50 miles (as the crow flies) from where we're headed, though now 70% contained. And there are a couple other fires a little further out. Everything is so dry out there I worry it's easy for something to start. I just don't have a sense of proportion - is 25 miles too close? Two fires within fifty miles? If we smell smoke do we immediately pack up? (The snow analogy is useful, although storms provide somewhat more notice and have a sense of direction and speed attached to them.)

          Thanks again!
          Sooooo, that's a tough one as the weather and terrain are the big factors for how quickly a fire will spread (given evenly desiccated ground), where it will spread, and where the smoke will go. It's not particularly how big the fire gets per se, it's whether it spreads in your direction and potentially could overrun or surround you. In that respect, on a macro scale, it is somewhat predictable like snow... because if the forecast is for winds running a certain direction and you know your terrain, the fire folks and locals have a good idea of what areas are most at risk and they issue warnings. The problem for most folks is that houses cannot be picked up and moved out of the way of fire and that is reflected in the news coverage. More and more areas of the mountain west, across many states, are considered fire danger zones by their very location.
          It's a good idea to always check the weather and any reports before you go to bed.
          If you're in a campground that is at all monitored/staffed, those folks should have info on the status day to day. In particular, federal and state campgrounds are tapped into the status all the time.

          The best bet is to google down into CalFire, the weather, and the local reports before you get there and periodically whilst your are there...you should be able to use the name of the fire (if there is one) and the nearest towns to see what news pops up, what the warning levels are, etc.

          Detailed weather outlooks will show wind direction, chance of storms, etc. If there are big firebreaks between you and a fire (major highways, towns, lakes) then distance isn't as big of an issue with the fire itself vs smoke, but smoke too is very weather dependent. Many of the apocalyptic photos from the San Francisco Bay area last year where the sky was dark red all day were actually NOT horrible air quality days - the weather and heat system kept the smoke aloft... blotted out the sky, but we could breathe. Many of the other days where it was solid grey and gently raining ash, the air quality was horrid.
          I like all the blues and greys...and all the happy citrus colours too! My search unicorn is the Sapphire Dyneema original Small Shop Bag...

          Comment


            #6
            OK, working on not freaking out and canceling the whole thing altogether!

            I'll see if I can ask a few different people to check fire status several times a day, and text us updates.

            Will order more goggles and headlamps and batteries, stat!
            >>If you're in a campground that is at all monitored/staffed, those folks should have info on the status day to day.


            It's a privately-owned place that is currently closed to the public - only shareholders are using it now. So I'm not counting on professional staff being there, although it sounds like some of the campers have lots of experience being there.
            >>I just drove through those fires and it's pretty terrible - air quality is horrible


            How quickly does the air clear, once the fires are contained? One person in our group has asthma - so far, mainly seasonal and well-controlled - but if it's going to be apocalyptic 24/7, then we might want to reconsider. Especially since the camp turns off power at night, so we won't be running an air filter.
            Last edited by haraya; 07-06-2021, 09:01 AM.

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              #7
              You can check out airnow.gov and iqair.com for air quality for that area... how quickly it clears up is also one of those 'it depends'... because contained fires are still burning, they're basically just not expanding/threatening and are burning out the fuel where they area... and again, how/where the smoke goes and whether or not it's down at ground level is related to weather & topography.

              And if you're on CalFire, be sure to dive in and get to the incident pages for more details if there's an active fire you're concerned about... You mentioned the Lava Fire, here's their page... it gives you a sense of where they are on it
              https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7581/

              Hopefully you'll go, have fun, and then ask yourself what all the fuss was. Literally millions of people living in CA vacation around the state all year without issues and we get like 50 million visitors a year or something and mostly everything is fine. You are more likely to have a problem being unprepared for climate/weather related heat than fire or have a problem with the highways and our infamous traffic...
              Last edited by G42; 07-06-2021, 07:56 AM.
              I like all the blues and greys...and all the happy citrus colours too! My search unicorn is the Sapphire Dyneema original Small Shop Bag...

              Comment


                #8
                Thank you again G42 and GrussGott! Yes, I hope you are right and it's a case of where the unknown is scarier than the reality. I'm happy to be over-prepared and find out that I didn't need most of the things I brought! I'm intrigued to discover a whole new part of the state that I haven't visited before.

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                  #9
                  Make sure you phone has all the emergency alerts turned on.

                  National, State and Local government.

                  National Weather Service (unlike other providers of weather, they are free and accurate)


                  https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/
                  Incidents Overview. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection ( CAL FIRE)


                  https://www.nifc.gov/fire-information/maps
                  National Interagency Fire Center



                  Despite the relentless asks, for you to log in to commercial weather channels or, local tv stations, don't do it.

                  Their info is only as good as their weather people, who might not be trained as meteorologist, and you will be bombarded by ads, which you will have to scroll past or, remove if they are pop up, which will cost you precious time, that one doesn't have, in case of an emergency.

                  You can stop reading here, if pressed for time, below, I relate some personal experience of not so stellar, local weather people and national weather channel handling of severe weather.


                  I had the unfortunate experience of relying on the local news weather men, who gave inaccurate info, during tornado weather, twice, in two different states, .

                  The first, said no problem and I literally saw the F1 funnel cross the wooded area in my line of view.
                  I was in the bathroom in the center of the apartment where there were not windows.
                  But, it was connected to a room which had a window, if the funnel has turned toward my place it would have shattered the glass and I would have certainly been injured, as I was not in the sturdy bath tub, which would have given me some protection from debris.

                  The second weatheman doesn't know how to read maps, which is a vital skill, to accurately predict a tornado path.
                  After his snafu, he was let go from the local tv channel, only to be hired by the weather channel, where he is not in charge of maps, but is an anchor at the studio, for what, I don't know.

                  I don't remember the exact year, the Midwest was experiencing a severe storm line, which produced a couple of tornados.
                  During that time, which was around 1 or 2 am, the so called weather channel, was having a re-run of a show that explained severe weather. I was really scared for people in the rural areas in modular homes, they can be lifted and destroyed very easily.
                  The next day, they were giving a storm report and I let them have it, about not being here for the people, in the middle of the night.


                  Storm fronts can readily be seen from satellites and radar, they usually form mid to late afternoon, when it is still light.

                  People should be warned, by their local weather person, to be ready go to a community shelter.
                  Local emergency agencies, should be helping people who have mobility impairments, to evacuate.

                  The National Weather Service has great prediction softwares that can be used for that.


                  During the Paradise fire, local emergency personnel, in charge of evacuation, was not given adequate info.

                  The severity of the fire was inadequately relayed by local authorities.
                  .
                  The people in charge save themselves but, not the people. Excuses were plentiful when those people were interviewed for a documentary.

                  Last edited by backpack; 07-13-2021, 04:38 PM.

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                    #10
                    Thank you so much for sharing, backpack.

                    I did in fact find the alerts & sign up for them. I’ve also asked a couple friends to keep an eye on them and to text us on the sat phone (we just rented one) if anything pops up nearby.

                    I am not 100%sure why we are heading into the forest right now but will take all precautions as we head out! Thanks to all for the suggestions!!

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by haraya View Post
                      I am not 100% sure why we are heading into the forest right now but will take all precautions as we head out! Thanks to all for the suggestions!!
                      Ha! I think G42 has it right: definitely keep a watch & change your plans if you have to, but it's also quite likely you'll have a great time and not be impacted. If it helps, we just drove back through all of NorCal and it was fine; you could still see some fires way off but otherwise it was crazy beautiful Assuming luck holds, you'll be very glad you went.
                      Seeking Verde Aeronauts

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