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What to do when driving in a bush fire area

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Updated 7 Jan 2020

Rowan Johnstone

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With bush fires currently ravaging much of Australia, it’s important to know what you should do if you find yourself impacted by a bush fire whilst on the road.

The NSW Rural Fire Service has outlined what you should do if travelling in a bush fire area.

Plan ahead

If you have the opportunity, you should check your route before you go to make sure there isn’t currently a fire burning. If possible, plan a route that avoids any potential fire danger altogether.

There’s an app recommended by the NSW Rural Fire Service called Fires Near Me Australia. This app maps out all current bush fire warnings around Australia.

Download the Fires Near Me app for iPhone or Android.

You also want to make sure that you have an Emergency Survival kit packed and ready to go. Key inclusions should be a battery-operated radio, water, protective clothing and woollen blankets.

Video: Bush Fire Fact - Travel Smart. NSW RFS

If you’re caught driving in a bush fire

Here are steps you should follow if you find yourself caught by a bush fire

  • Ring Triple Zero (000)
  • Try to park your car off the road in a clear area away from trees, scrub or grass. Parking off the road will avoid other cars crashing into you in low visibility
  • Face the front of your car toward the fire
  • Turn the engine off, but keep your headlights and hazard lights on
  • Tightly close the windows and vents
  • Cover yourself with a woollen blanket
  • Do not leave the car - remain inside and stay below the windows
  • Cover your mouth with a damp cloth
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Stay down until the sound of the fire has passed
  • Take care when exiting the car - it will be hot

Remember, bush and grass fires can be unpredictable. Smoke can greatly reduce your visibility and the fires themselves can even cross roads and highways.

Additionally, Australia’s Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre states that “whilst a vehicle can provide adequate shelter in certain conditions and is preferable to being caught outside, there is no guarantee of survival”.

The safest option is to avoid any areas affected by bush fires entirely. If you are trying to leave an already impacted area, leave as early as you can, and if you see smoke in the direction you’re travelling, turn around and find an alternate route.

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Written By

Rowan Johnstone

On weekdays Rowan can be found in the AutoGuru office, driving content and growth with the rest of the marketing team.

On weekends you’ll probably find him in the garage with his dad restoring a 1958 Ford Star Model Customline or enjoying a cruise through the Gold Coast hinterland on his Suzuki GSX-R600.

Despite his passion for being behind the wheel (or handlebars), he looks forward to the day when he can commute to work in his own driverless car.