This week, smoke from wildfires in the Western U.S. and Canada traveled as far as New York! Pictures of the hazy New York City skyline are amazing. They’re also terrifying.
As I write this, there are more than 80 large, extremely dangerous wildfires burning across 13 states. The Oregon Bootleg Fire alone has burned 364,000 acres, forcing thousands to evacuate. Persistent drought, ongoing heatwaves, and high winds have produced a very dangerous wildfire situation. This is just as many RVers take to the road for summer fun.
This raises important questions: How can we find out about potential wildfires that may threaten our camping location? Will someone tell us when to evacuate our campground? What if I’m boondocking and have no cell service to receive emergency alerts?
Let’s take these questions one at a time…
Websites can pinpoint wildfire locations
- InciWeb is an interagency management system. It provides information about wildfires, as well as prescribed fires and other natural disasters (floods, tornadoes, etc.). You’ll find information about road closures, evacuation orders, and timely information about the current situation.
- Fire Enterprise Geospatial Portal (Fire EGP) gives information for a wide range of topics concerning wildfires (readiness, response, etc.). Fairly easy to use, wildfires are noted on a map. You click on the wildfire you’re interested in and will learn about the fire’s size, containment, hot spots, etc.
- Fire, Weather & Avalanche Center is very user-friendly. Using the map, you can click on fires near your location and get up-to-date information. It also features a statewide contact phone number for your convenience.
Phone apps may help track fires:
- Fires – Wildfire Maps and Info — Based on NASA’s detection data, the U.S. Geological Service, and NOAA’s weather satellites, this app will provide information about current wildfires, weather reports, fire analysis, and more.
- Firesource – Live Wildfires — Live feeds let you follow current wildfires and track user-reported fires.
- Wildfire Info — Updated every 20 minutes, this app will let you track fires wherever you’re traveling throughout the world. Thermal maps show hotspots and changes in a fire’s perimeter within the past 48 hours. A new feature on this app provides a traffic scanner, which may help when planning evacuation routes.
- Fire Finder — Maps wildfire locations and lets you search for the specific fire you’re interested in. This app gathers its information from both state and federal sources, like InciWeb and Cal Fire.
Will someone tell us when to evacuate our campground?
Local law enforcement officers along with campground managers will receive evacuation orders and notify RVers in their campground. Many campground owners have coordinated with the American Red Cross and FEMA as well as local authorities to prepare for evacuations. Check your campground map upon arrival to locate designated evacuation routes or ask camp personnel about evacuation protocols.
Do not wait for an official evacuation order. If you feel threatened at all, break camp and get well away from the fire danger.
I’m boondocking. How will I receive wildfire alerts?
- Provided you have cell service, use one of the apps mentioned above. Or access the information provided on one of the recommended websites. Always know your current latitude and longitude (or approximate) and be aware of your surroundings (nearest highway away from the fire’s progression, closest town for needed supplies, etc.).
- Weather radios or local radio stations can provide information about fire conditions in your area. (You’ll need to know the name of the county where you are camped to make informed decisions.)
- If you do not have cell service, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Move to the nearest town or location where you do have cell service. Call a ranger station for up-to-date information. Ask them to recommend a safe camping spot well away from any fire.
- Use common sense. Boondock far from wildfires in a location that has dependable cell service or accessible radio signals. In case of emergency, remember that wind generally drives a fire uphill, so identify safe downhill egress routes before you need them.