If the West Coast’s wildfire season is on your mind, you’re not alone. For those of us who look forward to spending summer days outside, it’s important to always prepare for the possibility of wildfires. A little extra planning goes a long way in ensuring you are protecting yourself and doing your part to protect the environment.
Your vacation with Cabana should be nothing but spontaneous, adventurous, and easy, but your safety will always remain our top priority. When planning your next trip with Cabana, please consider a few things:
Travel Savvy. Use Available Resources.
Experts track droughts and weather patterns to predict the areas most at risk of wildfires, but exacting when and where a wildfire will burst is close to impossible. Natural causes, like lightning, create wildfires, but human activity actually causes a majority of wildfires (85 percent!), which is why it’s important to remain extra vigilant about the resources you use in the wild.
As you make your initial trip plan, use the Wildland Fire Potential Outlook, which provides insight about the areas most at risk for wildfires over the next few months. Additionally, it’s always a good idea to check the weather before your trip. Checking the air quality will also help inform your decision about adventuring outdoors.
To keep up to date on the latest wildfires devastating our precious outdoor lands, you can always check to see where fires are currently burning. Make sure to check the state's Department of Transportation page for possible road closures along your route as well.
Areas most at risk of wildfires typically put burn restrictions in place. Before departure, check if your destination(s) have a burn ban (check CalFire if you’re in California, or this burn restrictions website if you’re in Washington).
Your park campground or Hipcamp may have more restrictive fire regulations, and you’ll be made aware of this information when you book a campsite. But, keep in mind that this may change from the time of booking to the time of your trip –– which is why you should always ask a Park Ranger or campground host if you are unsure.
If you’re traveling to a place with wildfire risk, some of the smallest items can make the biggest difference.
Here are a few things to consider packing in case of emergency:
- Extra water and snacks: An extra gallon of water is easy to grab at any gas station. Bring some ready-to-eat meals or snacks, even if you plan on cooking most of your meals with the slide-out kitchen. Traveling with your furry friend? Pack extra pet food and even more water.
- GPS Tracker: It’s always smart to share your itinerary and updates with someone back home, especially if you’re planning to venture far from your campsite in areas without service. In case of emergency, Cabana HQ is able to locate your van. For added peace of mind, look into a personal locator beacon or satellite messenger - REI’s guide is a good place to start for more information.
- Medications: Extras of any essential medication is usually a good idea when traveling. When it comes to smoke and fire, if you have asthma or another cardio-pulmonary condition, consult with your doctor about making an emergency plan if you don’t already have one in place.
- Paper map: Service in the wilderness isn’t guaranteed, which is part of the fun, but also means it’s important to familiarize yourself with the area’s exit routes before you go. Download any maps offline, and in case of an evacuation, a paper map is a great backup to your usual GPS.
Have a Pivot Plan in Place.
Adjusting plans you’ve had in the works is never fun, especially if you have already booked campsites or activities. But, it’s important to set the expectation for yourself and any travel companions ahead of time that you will prioritize your safety. If safety isn’t enough of a concern, remind yourself that visiting your dream destination when it’s too smokey wouldn’t make for an enjoyable experience anyway.
The beauty of traveling with Cabana is that changing plans is as easy as taking a different exit. If you’d rather save your trip for when you can plan it all to a tee, our cancellation policy provides ample flexibility.
Practice Campfire Safety and Wildfire Prevention.
Because almost 9 in 10 wildfires are human caused, 9 in 10 wildfires should also be able to be prevented. Campfire safety is a great place to start.
If you are allowed a small campfire at your site, make sure you know how to properly build, maintain, and extinguish a campfire. Never leave a campfire unattended, and make sure to fully extinguish your fire once you’re finished. For more information on how and where to build a fire, read REI’s Campfire Basics.
When choosing a route and an overnight location, avoid driving over and parking your Cabana on dried grass. In drought conditions, the heat of the exhaust can spark a fire.
Knowing what to do in case a wildfire breaks out in your area is not only essential when dealing with this type of emergency, but it will help you enjoy your trip with greater peace of mind.
First and foremost, do not ignore an order to evacuate. If you see flames or dense smoke, get out of the area immediately. Fire can spread quickly, especially with wind.
If you see flames or a pillar of smoke, head in the opposite direction as fast as you can. As you evacuate, keep in mind that fire travels faster uphill than downhill. If you need to stop, flat areas with little vegetation are your best bet. If you have the option to travel over already blackened ground, this area is unlikely to catch fire again.
A fire extinguisher is located in the back of your Cabana. Take note of its location in case you encounter an issue with your campfire or another small fire incident.
Report a Wildfire.
If you see a wildfire, call 911 as soon as you are safe and have service. If possible, be prepared to provide the GPS coordinates where you encountered the fire.
The West Coast is rich with beautiful land to enjoy, from California’s redwoods to Washington’s rainforest, making it both an honor and our duty to spend time in these places responsibly. Knowing what to do (and what not to do) in the wildfire season is crucial for your safety and for the protection of the lands we love so much.
Thanks for doing your part in being a prepared adventurer and conservationist.