fire safety while hikingHiking in Belgium

Fire safety while hiking

Extensive research has proven that wildfires are occurring five times more often in recent decades.

We are all shocked at the horrifying pictures and videos coming out of the Californian town of Paradise following its devastation by the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history. As I write this, 81 people have lost their lives, 699 are missing, and 11,713 homes have been destroyed. My sympathy goes out to all those who have lost family, friends and property.

Wildfires are occurring more frequently

Unfortunately, research is showing that wildfires are occurring five times more frequently now than last century. Moreover, forest fires are burning six times the land area when compared to past occurrences, and lasting almost five times longer.

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Every year, wildfires globally burn an astonishing 350-450 million hectares of forest and grassland, an area corresponding to approximately 4% of the earth’s land surface.

Forest fires and climate change

According to scientific research, climate change and global warming are the two main culprits to be blamed for the sudden increase in frequency and intensity of wildfires.

Greenhouse gas emissions are causing the global temperature to increase. Warmer temperatures increase evaporation, which means the atmosphere draws more moisture from soils, making the land drier. A warmer climate also leads to earlier snowmelt, which causes soils to be drier for longer. And dry soils become more susceptible to fire.

Drier conditions and higher temperatures increase not only the likelihood of a wildfire starting, but also its duration and severity. This means that when wildfires break out, they expand faster, burn more area, and move with greater unpredictability.

Fire safety while hiking

The prevalence of wildfires in Belgium is rather limited, although when they occur they often affect biologically valuable nature areas. In 2011, for instance, 2144 hectares of land burnt within the Natura 2000 network of protected nature areas.

However, it’s still essential that any responsible hiker prioritizes fire safety during hiking, whether in a low risk or high risk area. As many of my readers not only hike in Belgium but elsewhere around the world, I thought it was appropriate to address some fire safety practices while hiking.

For this I am indebted to Arun Kumar of Riderstrail, who has put together the informative and comprehensive infographic below. Actually Riderstrail has a wealth of interesting topics on hiking, so please pay Arun a visit and check it out.

For more detailed explanations of the points covered in this infographic, go to Arun’s specific post on fire safety while hiking, at Riderstrail.

how-to-survive-a-forest-fire-while-hiking

Categories: Hiking in Belgium, Miscellenea

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15 replies »

  1. I never gave a thought to coping with forest fires, until a college trip to the Southwest, where we dodged around, looking at Anasazi sites, etc. and changing the route all the time, due to a number of fires. I’d imagine Belgium is like NY, where the fires are fairly rare, but they do happen.

  2. It’s devastating and heartbreaking what is going on with the fires here in California. It really boggles my mind how quickly this Paradise fire must have approached to catch people this much off guard costing them their lives and all their belongings. Crazy!

    Thanks for sharing the Infographic, Denzil. It’s well done (except for the typos), but one thing I don’t get is why we should travel upwind (“Travel upwind and downhill” it states towards the top), as that seems to be counter-intuitive, since the wind will then blow the fire towards us.

    • I’ll get back to the guy who made the infographic Liesbet. Yes I agree it was scary how quickly it spread. I hope you are not in any dry and hot areas in the coming months. Take care!

  3. Here in California, we are devastated and fearful of the forest fires around our state, especially of the fire that destroyed the town of Paradise and killed so many people. What has shocked me is how many people around the world are aware of of state’s fire crisis. This is what blogging has made possible – not necessarily the spread of news, but the awareness that other folks know so much about events around the world, especially things that seem to be local problems. That’s a great thing, of course, and it points up how small our planet really is. We’re only a click away from any doorway.

    So I want to thank you and Arun Kumar for providing a service to people everywhere about how to be safe and protect ourselves from fire. And I especially want to thank you for caring.

    Just so you know, I am not near any of these fires. However, our younger son and his family live in a town about 170 miles southeast of Paradise, and they’ve been breathing dangerous air that’s making them choke and flaring up allergies.

    We celebrated Thanksgiving a few days ago and while we enjoyed our bounty of family, food, and joy, we were aware of the many thousands of people around the globe who didn’t eat that day and didn’t sleep safely in their beds. Thank you, Denzil, for a most worthy post.

    • It’s good to know you are safe Sharon. Your comment about your son breathing in the polluted air even though they don’t live in the immediate vicinity of the fire reminds of the post I made recently about the aftermath of the First World War. Even when a crisis is over, the consequences are considerable and long-lasting. Paradise may be out of the news now, but I can’t imagine the horrors facing the inhabitants as they return to the shells of their houses and start to pick up their shattered lives.

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