By Barry Zander
Only one road in and out: It’s a situation that RV owners need to take to heart, which became more obvious this week when a fire raged through a Northern California campground. Two hundred people camping in RVs and tents beat hasty retreats into nearby Shaver Lake, plunging into the water to stay safe from the threatening blaze. TV reporters later interviewed evacuees out of harm’s way, who were still shaken by the trauma of what they had experienced, expressing their relief after being rescued from almost certain disaster.
Had it not been for hefty National Guard Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters, the lives of the campers were at great risk. When the helicopters were finally able to swoop in, all the campers climbed aboard, leaving behind their RVs, tents and gear, as seen in news videos.
Whether you’re in coastal plain or forest, inland or in highlands, it’s a good idea to consider an escape route. Sudden changes in weather can quickly turn Mother Nature into a beast. Think about the risks of having only one road accessing the campground. This week’s news telecasts clearly show why the term “wildfire” is so appropriate. Fire officials and area residents are never sure where it will go next.
Apparently, there was no chance to drive away from these Creek Fire flames, but if you’ll recall the 2018 Camp Fire in Paradise, CA, two locals died in the inferno that day. Dramatic television footage showed drivers speeding through flaming tunnels on the narrow road, praying to find a safe haven.
In the fire-prone area of Southern California we call home, I write this as I look out at the eerie yellow-gray sky colored by smoke from a wildfire 75 miles north of our cabin. We have two escape routes, but in a very freakish situation two years ago, both were cut off when torrential rains careened off hillsides and washed away blacktop in 64 places. Few locals now ignore orders to evacuate.
The risk of having only one way in and out can be applied to flood-prone areas, states susceptible to hurricanes and the northern tier where getting trapped for days can mean life or death. We have all known of law enforcement efforts to get residents to safely leave a potential disaster area early. Some folks listen; others prefer to “ride out the storm.” If you find yourself in this situation, weigh the risks versus the rewards. Think about what advantage you may derive by waiting until the last moment (or beyond), instead of experiencing the benefit of living for another day.
It wasn’t the winds or rain from Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans in 2005, a city that knows how to prepare for the worst storms. The destruction came when several protection levees were undermined by surging Mississippi River waters, a manifestation of Katrina’s rampage against the current and up the river. While thousands had no means of evacuating when they suddenly found water rising to the second story of their homes (if they had a second story), others packed essentials, jumped in their cars and drove onto major arteries where they waited in miles-long lines of cars for eight hours or more to get away from the disaster.
Consider the possible consequences of being in a one-way-in-and-out camping situation, especially when threats may be just over the horizon.