Washington's wildfire season has started, and there have already been more than 300 fire starts recorded this year. The Washington state Department of Natural Resources is the largest firefighting agency in the state and had these tips for anyone who may see smoke or fire while hiking this season.
If you see smoke on the trail
Do not ignore the smoke. Try not to panic but leave the area quickly and get to safe place. Fire can move quickly, especially if it’s windy.
If you’re in an area without cell reception take mental notes of the situation and call 911 or the DNR wildfire dispatchers at (800) 562-6010 as soon as you have cell reception again.
If you see fire on the trail
When you set out on the trail, pay attention to where any bodies of water, large areas of clean and exposed rock, and open areas with little vegetation are located. In case of emergency, those kinds of areas could be a place of refuge as a last resort – your first move should be to leave the area as soon as you sense danger.
If you are caught on a ridge and see fire below you, go down the opposite side of the ridge. Fire typically travels uphill.
Before you go out on the trail
- Check fire conditions online or on Twitter, including campfire bans
- Check weather conditions and air quality reports – wildfire smoke is unhealthy. It may contain carbon particles, sea salt and dust, benzene, formaldehyde or nitrogen dioxide.
- Bring more water than usual – if an emergency happens, you may not have access to water for longer than usual.
- Carry a physical map with you (not just your phone) in case you need to alter your route in an emergency.
- Wear colorful gear – in case you need to be rescued, colorful gear can help fire crews see you on the ground from the air