Tips for Coping With Wildfires Behind the Wheel

April 13, 2012 7:16 pmBy: 

It is an unusual warning for this part of the country but East Coast motorists need to watch out for wildfires. AAA says motorists should take seriously the “Red Flag” weather condition warnings from the National Weather Service and stay alert while out and about, and even at home if you live near a wooded area.

Wildfires can create thick smoke and zero visibility woes and worries, as some motorists are discovering to their chagrin, the auto club cautions. Wildfires have already burned more than 14,000 acres across Virginia, according to various news reports, and closed roads throughout the region, including Interstate 64, which has sincereopened.

“Most of us falsely assume that wildfires are common threats only in California, along the West Coast, and in the Southwest, and we also wrongly presuppose that they can’t happen here,” noted John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “And as a result, the residents of our area have little experiential knowledge of how destructive and deadly wildfires can really be.”

Sixteen Red Flag Warnings have been issued for Virginia over the past five years, the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Sterling, Virginia is reporting.

“Most area residents and drivers were stunned to learn the Washington and Baltimore metropolitan areas, and most of Maryland, and Northern and Central Virginia were placed under a ‘Red Flag’ warning this past weekend, and they were also caught off-guard by the brush fires that burned hundreds of acres in our area back in February of last year. It’s a wake-up call for all of us.”

“It is also a timely and timeless reminder that  if you are driving and notice smoke billowing from a wildfire, or if you encounter heavy smoke blowing onto the roadway, keep your wits about you and drive with caution,” Townsend added.

This week alone, wildfires have consumed 600 acres in the National Forest in the Wolf Gap area of Shenandoah County, the Virginia Department of Forestry reported earlier this week.

If you encounter a wildfire while driving or traveling, don’t panic, advises AAA Mid-Atlantic.  If the fire approaches, the best advice is to stay inside the vehicle. That may sound counter-intuitive but it will likely safeguard your life, said Townsend.

Here’s why.  Wildfires, much like brush fires and forest fires, can move quickly. Here’s the deal: turn off the vehicle, and then roll up its windows. Next, get as close to the floor as possible.  In fact, the vehicle will protect you from a quick-moving fire.

Here’s the problem: you may become seriously injured attempting to outrun a fire. Also keep in mind, most deaths that occur when dealing with wildfires are caused by people getting lost in the smoke near the fire, fire safety officials warn.

Safety tips

If you are driving:

  • Observe “Red Flag” weather condition warnings before heading or venturing out.
  • When pulling trailers, attach safety chains securely; loose chain can drag on the pavement and cause sparks, igniting roadside fires.
  • Smoke from wild fires or forest or brush fires, for that matter, can be dangerous to drive through, because it can occur suddenly, without warning, and be very dense.
  • Don’t lose your nerve or freak out when this occurs.
  • Reduce your speed — and watch your speedometer. Smoke, like fog, creates a visual illusion of slow motion when you may actually be speeding.
  • Roll up your windows and close your air vents.
  • Drive with lights on low beam. High beams will only be reflected back off the smoke and compromise your visibility even more.
  • Use wipers and defrosters as necessary for maximum visibility.
  • Use the right edge of the road or painted road markings as a guide.
  • When you approach areas where smoke clouds are present, emergency flashers may help make you more visible to other drivers.  (Check the AAA Digest of Motor Laws regarding state laws on the use of flashers while moving or driving).
  • The best option is to move off the highway and wait for conditions to improve.
  • If you’re caught in the open, try to find a ditch or depression and cover yourself with a blanket or a coat.
  •  Never park your vehicle on dry grass, or drive through tall grass.
  • Stay tuned to the radio or television for updated information.

“Gusty winds can result in erratic fire weather behavior,” warns the National Weather Service. By definition, a “Red Flag warning” means “critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now, or will shortly. A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity, and warm temperatures will create explosive fire growth potential.”

 

Comments

More Top Stories

  • Business Real Estate Top Stories Median home prices up in parts of Northern Virginia

    Median home prices up in parts of Northern Virginia

    The Northern Virginia real estate market experienced some positive trends in August. According to The Long & Foster Market Minute reports, median sale prices increased in some parts of the region, and homes are continuing to sell at a rapid pace in the region, which includes the city of Alexandria, and Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties. Median sale prices in the Northern Virginia region increased in a number of areas compared to the same month in 2013. Prince William […]

    Read more →
  • Education Top Stories Fairfax middle & high schools would open later under new plan

    Fairfax middle & high schools would open later under new plan

    Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Superintendent Karen Garza will propose a recommendation on later high school start times at the school board’s business meeting on Thursday, September 18, for the Board’s formal consideration at its October 23 meeting. The Superintendent’s recommendation, which would be effective for the 2015-16 school year, proposes high schools beginning between 8 and 8:10 a.m., and middle schools beginning at 7:30 a.m.  The recommendation includes the three secondary schools beginning their day on the high school […]

    Read more →
  • Politics Top Stories Wason Poll: Warner holds big lead over Gillespie in Senate race

    Wason Poll: Warner holds big lead over Gillespie in Senate race

    Democratic Sen. Mark Warner starts the post-Labor Day campaign season with a commanding lead over former National Republican Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie in Virginia’s U.S. Senate race, according to a statewide survey released today by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University. Likely voters favor Warner by 53 percent, compared with 31 percent for Gillespie, according to the survey. Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis holds a 5% share of the overall vote, with 11% undecided. Warner has stronger […]

    Read more →
  • Health Politics Top Stories McAuliffe announces plan to expand healthcare services

    McAuliffe announces plan to expand healthcare services

    Governor Terry McAuliffe Monday launched “A Healthy Virginia,” a 10-step plan to expand healthcare services to over 200,000 Virginians. It includes authorizations of four emergency regulations, one executive order, and other measures to expand healthcare to Virginia veterans, children, and families. “As governor, there is no greater responsibility than ensuring the health and safety of the citizens you serve. That is why I am so proud to stand here today and unveil ‘A Healthy Virginia’ – a plan that will improve […]

    Read more →
  • Springfield Top Stories Transportation New lanes speed Telegraph Road traffic in Springfield

    New lanes speed Telegraph Road traffic in Springfield

    Two months prior to the project’s final completion, the Virginia Department of Transportation has opened major improvements along Telegraph Road in Alexandria. Drivers on Telegraph now have two lanes in each direction between South Van Dorn Street and South Kings Highway, as well as the following new turn lanes to relieve backups accessing I-495 via South Van Dorn and the bottleneck south of the intersections: · Right-turn lane from northbound Telegraph Road to South Kings Highway · Right-turn lane from […]

    Read more →
  • Politics Top Stories McAuliffe boosts gas pipeline but environmental groups dissent

    McAuliffe boosts gas pipeline but environmental groups dissent

    To hear Gov. Terry McAuliffe tell it, the proposed Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline is Virginia’s pathway to prosperity. To the Virginia League of Conservation Voters its value is “dubious.” “Dominion and its industry partners appear willing to invest billions on outdated ideas that will threaten Virginia’s natural landscape – with an outcome of a paltry 188 long-term jobs. It appeared that there were a greater number of industry lobbyists at today’s press conference than the number of permanent jobs […]

    Read more →
  • Chantilly Education Top Stories Local dancers win six world championships

    Local dancers win six world championships

    Chantilly-based Creative Dance Center Competition Team (CDC*CT) crowned its award-winning season at the Star Dance Alliance World Dance Championships held at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, New Jersey. The CDC*CT made it to the finals, securing six first place championships and two second place championships in various divisions. “I am extremely proud. I am very fortunate to work with a very talented staff of choreographers/teachers, the very best parents, and the most amazing group of dancers any studio director […]

    Read more →
  • Education Top Stories GMU partners with TheDream.US to aid undocumented students

    GMU partners with TheDream.US to aid undocumented students

    George Mason University announced today that it will be an education partner with TheDream.US, a private national scholarship fund that helps highly motivated undocumented students attend college. TheDream.US works with colleges across the nation by awarding up to $25,000 to students who qualify and have received and maintained Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. The goal of the scholarship is in line with George Mason’s commitment to making college accessible and affordable. And it supports Mason’s desire to collaborate […]

    Read more →

Our weather forecast is from WP Wunderground