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Hikers and campers: What to do if encountering a fire

Published: Oct. 23, 2020 at 8:37 AM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - These were likely scary moments for hikers recently, as a group had to be air rescued from the Ice Fire in the San Juans this week, and teams had to help a group get off the Barr Trail during the incline fire.

Local firefighters want to help hikers avoid finding themselves in these situations. Here are a few tips they offered:

  • If finding a fire, try to move down-hill and opposite the wind’s direction.
  • Have a clear path out. Pay attention to trails that will bring you back to a main road or area.
  • Look for lakes and wet areas. You can go in these to protect yourself from flames.
  • Avoid sheltering in canyons and drainage areas

Firefighters say, with fire danger as high as it is, hiking or camping in very remote areas is not recommended. “Sometimes those are the areas we are going to let burn because we might be focusing on saving the homes and the neighborhoods,” said Capt. Michael Smaldino with Colorado Springs Fire Department. “We may not get into remote areas for quite a while.”

If you’re not able to get away from the fire, having a compass app on your phone will help rescuers locate you faster. Giving the longitude and latitude points to the 911 operator will help pinpoint your location. Many compass apps are free. Many phones, including iPhones, come with one already downloaded.

“We get so many calls where people are like ‘we see smoke in the area,'” Smaldino said. “We need to narrow that down. Knowing your exact location will help us get resources there faster.”

Firefighters also say, remember the trail head name and the words on signs in the area. These can be factors that help specify your location.

Since many camping and hiking areas do not have cell service, it is good to let someone know where you are going and how long you will be gone.

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