What To Do When Trapped

If you are about to be trapped by approaching flames, use these wilderness survival lessons to protect yourself. While these strategies will help keep you safe when under imminent threat of danger, preparing ahead of time and evacuating early is the best way to increase your chances of survival.


An approaching wildfire will be extremely loud, create extreme heat and smoke, and will likely evoke fear and panic. However, the active flame will pass. 


Near Home

Choose the most well-constructed or modern building for shelter.

  • Shut all windows and doors and put wet towels across window and door edges to prevent smoke and flames from entering the house.

In Vehicle or Outside

Whether in a vehicle or on foot, select an area that will not burn or an area with the least amount of combustible material – the bigger the better.

  • Examples include irrigated pastures, golf courses, parking lots, large ponds, depressions in the ground, and any other area that will not support combustion. 
  • If trapped in a vehicle, park vehicle off the road, if possible.


Near Home

  • Stay inside while the fire front passes. Stay low to keep cool and avoid smoke inhalation.
  • Move to the end of the house farthest from the fire front. Preferable to shelter in a part of your building that allows you to see the progress of the fire.
  • Look out for embers landing inside the home and extinguish any spot fires.
  • After the fire has passed over the house, head outside to an area with no flames for safety. This may be an area that just burned.

In Vehicle or Outside

Use every means possible to protect yourself and your lungs from the extreme heat emitted by the flames. 

  • Examples of natural features to look for include boulders, rock outcrops, large downed logs, trees, snags, etc.
  • If trapped in a vehicle:
    • Stay inside the vehicle until the fire has passed. The car should remain on with windows rolled up and AC recirculation on. 
    • Lie on vehicle floor and cover yourself with a natural fibered blanket or jacket.
    • Be aware that metal parts of the vehicle will be hot. Avoid direct contact if possible. 
    • Evacuate on foot as a last resort. 


After the fire front has passed, be wary of potential hazards.

  • Call 9-1-1 for help if you need medical assistance and cannot leave the area after the fire has passed. 
  • Continue to wear personal protective clothing.
  • Inspect the perimeter of the home/structure and extinguish any spot fires. Test door surface with the back of your hand before opening.
  • Be aware of trees, brush, or rocks which may be weakened or loosened by fire. 
  • Stay clear of electrical wires on the ground - consider them energized.