The 2023 Maui Wildfires have left around 115 people dead, 850 missing, and 11,000 displaced. As frightening as it is, natural disasters cannot be prevented. But there are things that we can do to ensure optimal safety when they occur.
Here are some of survival experts’ most vital tips for living through a wildfire.
Have a Plan of Action
"As flames tore through a West Maui neighborhood, car after car of fleeing residents headed for the only paved road out of town in a desperate race for safety.
And car after car was turned back toward the rapidly spreading wildfire by a barricade blocking access to Highway 30."…
Carrie Berger, Program Manager at Oregon State University’s Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Fire Program, stresses the importance of families having an emergency plan of action in the case of a nearby wildfire.
A plan of action should include emergency meeting locations, a plan for pets, plans for communication, fire-fighting equipment (like fire extinguishers), and emergency kits, containing medical supplies, medications, phone chargers, and water.
‘Next to your home, the area should be comprised of non-combustible materials like stone, pavers, concrete sidewalks,” Berger said.
“Do not plant vegetation up against your home!”
Trust Your Instincts
Along with personal safety, it's important to abide by burn bans to help prevent wildfires. https://t.co/i7kl6G24jH— KLTV 7 (@KLTV7) August 24, 2023
Berger claims that a huge mistake people make amidst wildfires is waiting for officials to tell them to evacuate. She stresses that families should trust their instincts. If they are feeling like the safest move is to relocate, they should relocate.
“While in your vehicle,” Berger said, “park in an area clear of vegetation, close all windows and vents, cover yourself with a wool blanket (non-synthetic) or a jacket, lie on the vehicle floor and call emergency services if you are able to.
“If you are still at home, it is important to stay calm and keep your family together… Call 911, fill sinks and tubs with cold water, keep doors and windows closed but unlocked, stay inside the home and stay away from outside walls and windows.”
Wildfires Becoming More Common
Wildfires don't have a plan, but you should. Have an evacuation plan for your household as well as an emergency supply kit. Learn more at https://t.co/GdhSFgftAk. #WildfireSafety #FranklinPUD pic.twitter.com/qlnM8EQRQm— Franklin PUD (@franklinpud) August 23, 2023
It would seem that the number of worldwide wildfires has increased greatly in recent years. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “The extent of area burned by wildfires each year appears to have increased since the 1980s. According to National Interagency Fire Center data, of the 10 years with the largest acreage burned, all have occurred since 2004, including the peak year in 2015.”
Why have wildfires become more common? According to the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, it is mainly due to climate change, which has led to increased temperatures and periods of extended drought.
“Research shows that changes in climate create warmer, drier conditions, leading to longer and more active fire seasons. Increases in temperatures and the thirst of the atmosphere due to human-caused climate change have increased the aridity of forest fuels during the fire season.”