Forest fires and the golden rules of safety

We recently asked Keith Still (Professor of Crowd Science at Manchester Metropolitan University and Fellow of the Institute of Place Management) to comment on the recent fires in the Mediterranean from his point of view as an expert.

“Due to the recent spate of wildfires around the world, spreading at an alarming rate, it’s worth remembering the golden rules for safety.
One factor that appears to be underestimated is the speed at which fire spreads. Having seen scientific experiments and been subjected to both smoke and hot room escapes at the UK Fire Services College (Morton in the Marsh – https://www.fireservicecollege.ac.uk) this may be the major factor that require more public awareness. In my youth, kids would often set fires in the hills near us, nothing to the scale witnessed around the world, but enough to give me an appreciation of wildfires and how quickly they can spread.

I had the unpleasant experience of being caught in a small fire in a tent, in our back garden, the speed it spread was alarming, seconds between an accidental spark and total destruction. So, how do you best prepare?
Your local fire department may run public days where you can see their fire training methods for smoke room training. You can review safety process and procedures, local and international information on the web. You can check out the fire risks in your local spaces.
This is from the USA (California) but applies to situations around the world and can make the difference between survival or perishing in a fire
If you’re in your car:
— Stay calm and call the emergency services
— Park your vehicle in an area clear of vegetation.
— Close all vehicle windows and vents.
— If you have a wool blanket or jacket, cover yourself with it.
— Lie on the floor of your vehicle.
If you’re at home:
— Keep your family together and call the emergency services
— Fill sinks and tubs with cold water.
— Keep doors and windows closed but unlocked.
— Stay inside your house.
— Stay away from outside walls and windows.
If you’re stuck outside:
— Call the emergency services, of course.
— Try to find a place free from vegetation, such as a ditch or depression on level ground.
— Lie face down and cover your body.
Above all, remember, fire is fatal and fast.”

Keith Still is Professor of Crowd Science at Manchester Metropolitan University and Fellow of the Institute of Place Management.