There is nothing scarier than being in a building while a fire has broken out. Whether it is an apartment complex in a residential neighborhood or a commercial skyscraper in the middle of the city, a fire can easily cause someone to panic. But don’t worry because you will be able to survive most building fires if you simple know how to handle yourself. That is why the first thing to remember is not to panic. People who panic often think irrationally and may do something foolish to make the situation worse. The next step is to grab a flashlight. This will come in handy in case you need to find your way down a dark or smoky hallway. It can also be used to signal to people for help. If you are near an open window then you can easily use your flashlight for this purpose. But don’t wait by the window for too long because you have to assume the fire is spreading. That is why you should find the nearest fire extinguisher and try to tame the fire, especially if it is near you.
Buildings that are equipped with fire sprinkler systems will certainly help tame the fire enough for everyone to escape. It will also let you know there is a fire in the building. You will want to know this as quickly as possible so you can escape the building before the fire escalates. Therefore try to get to the lower level of your building as soon as you know there is a fire. Now depending on the current severity of the fire and the floor you are on, you may be able to just jump out of the window without injuring yourself. For example, if you are on the third floor of an apartment complex then you will likely sustain minor injuries from a jump to the ground. If the fire department is already there then they will set up a net that you can jump into safely. For those who are too high up to jump into a net, you will have no choice but to make your way to the lower levels of the building.
Even though you know not to panic, that doesn’t mean other people are going to stay calm. You can be sure that people are going to rush out of the building quickly during a fire. This could result in you getting pushed around or even trampled on if you are not careful. The best thing is to wait for other people to get out first. It is better to be last in line with a fire extinguisher than to be in the middle of the chaotic line without one. So just keep the fire extinguisher on hand and get to the end of the line.
At some point, you may find yourself in a situation where you have to prepare your meals over a fire. You may have to do this in wilderness environment or even in your own back yard because a crisis has disrupted your utilities, and in some cases you may find you do not have any cooking utensils, pots or pans.
Building Your Fire
For best results dig down between four and six inches, pile the soil to one side, and save. Line the bottom of the pit with flat dry rocks. Do not use rocks that were in the water. The moisture content will cause the rocks to fracture and chips may fly off as the rocks are heated. The rocks provide a barrier between the ground and your fire. The moisture in the soil will inhibit the fire and in very wet soil, you would not be able to maintain the fire. Once you no longer need the fire simply, fill back in with the excavated soil.
Lay flat rocks around the perimeter that can be used as heating surfaces. If you do not have any cookware, you can place your food right on the flat rocks to cook or even bake.
You can build the ring of stones to elevate your cooking surface and place green saplings over the fire for a cooking or drying surface for meats, vegetables or to hold light pans. You do not want the flames touching the wooden grates or the food. The grates will become useless overtime so make sure you keep an eye on them so your food or pans do not fall into the fire.
Cooking by flame will burn the food on the outside, and to get the food done on the inside you would end up destroying the food. Indirect heat is the best method particularly if you are drying or smoking meats for preservation. Let the fire burn down to coals and place you food on the green saplings for cooking. You can enclose the fire pit with a poncho or tarp to help keep the heat confined around the food.
If you cannot make grates out of wood, you can prop several sticks over the fire to drape your food over, and remember to keep the food out of the flames.
Dakota fire pit has an air chamber for feeding the fire. The fire is below ground level and is ideal in windy conditions or in areas where sparks or flame could ignite the surrounding vegetation. The pit also conceals the flame from others at night. With this type of fire pit, you would simply place your cooking pan directly over the fire pit.
In an emergency, you can put holes in a metal coffee can or large food can and use as a stove/cooking surface. Put numerous holes in the can, place hot coals in the can, and place a pot or pan over the top to heat. You will need plenty of air holes because the pot or pan will cover the opening and deprive the fire of oxygen.
Planning is essential to surviving a wildfire. Information is crucial and you must know the dangers in the areas you will be hiking, camping or hunting. Check with your local forest service and know the probability of a forest fire before traveling in a particular area. Chances of a forest fire increase if the temperatures are high and the humidity is low. Find out how much rainfall the area has received to decided if the underbrush is tinder dry or not. These are danger areas if it is a popular spot for campers and hikers because humans are the cause of many forest fires.
Even though you are careful, with your campfires, others may not be and you could be caught in a forest fire while hiking or camping. Getting ahead of the fire is important by maintaining situational awareness, looking for smoke and smelling the air. If you see or smell smoke, identify the probable location and move in the opposite direction immediately. If you take too long, the fire can encircle you leaving you no escape. Do not get trapped on hilltops, you want to move downhill from any fire because the heat from the inferno will rise and it can be as high as a 1000F/537C. Valleys or canyons can also trap the heat/smoke and either end could be blocked trapping you in the middle.
Open ground with a firebreak between you and the fire is ideal. Firebreaks include logging roads, fire roads or even highways. Water is a safety zone as well, and if you have no other choice get into the middle of the river or stream and as far out as you feel safe in a lake or pond. The fire can of course jump the break but a break will slow the fire down. Areas already burned can be safe if the combustibles have been consumed and if the heat and smoke is tolerable.
When the forest fire hits a firebreak, it may split. The combustibles have been consumed up until this point causing it to move along the break and then possibly jump the break. Depending on the vegetation there may or may not be a safe zone behind the fire.
If you are trapped and the fire is close, get to low ground, such as a ditch or any depression Scoop out a depression if you have to and cover yourself with soil if possible, this is only as a last resort. You want the heated air to pass over you, and if covered with non-combustibles you may have a chance of surviving. Keep your face from the heat and as low as possible. Avoid overhead dangers from falling trees or limbs if you have escaped to an already burned area.
There are shelters specifically designed to reflect up to 95 percent of heat from a forest fire that you can carry with you if you are traveling in a high fire risk area. The shelters provide protection from radiant and convective heat. Several models have an optional travel pack that will attach to the bottom of your backpack for easy carrying.