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  1. #1

    Default Your thoughts: Safety from Forest Fires

    The USFS today says something that cant' surprise anyone. That this summer will have a higher number of fires in the west. This is obviously something that scares the hell out of me. You're all alone on a trail, you have no weather reports (I don't have a cell phone and won't have any with me), and the first hint you have of a fire is seeing or smelling it. Scary! What did you do on your hike to stay safe? Does the time of year matter? Should I wait for a different year?

  2. #2

    Join Date
    state of confusion
    Journal Entries


    Dont worry about it.
    The forest service is aware people are out there.
    Trail notices magically appear posted. If necessary trail will be closed. They attempt to divert and remove people from area.
    Many fires are natural and are left to burn themselves out, aside from the smoke they arent much of a problem. Smoke makes it miserable.

    You will smell and see smoke from fires dozens or even hundreds of miles away. Not the best indicator.

    If your on an established trail, you really dont have much to worry about.

    Summer time is always fire time in the dry western rockies and sierra. Lightning strikes start a lot of fires, most small and they burn themselves out.
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 05-09-2015 at 08:35.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Golden CO


    Agree, don't worry about it. I'm a recently retired Colorado wildland firefighter. A reasonably responsible hiker faces no danger from a wildland fire. A fire can ruin your hike, though. A section of trail may be closed and you'll have to hitch or road walk around it. It's a good idea to carry the DeLorme atlas pages. CDT hikers face that problem pretty regularly.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

  4. #4


    One thing hikers can do is to be prepared for bans on open fires, which will make the use of alcohol stoves illegal. This has occurred several times over the past few years. When this has occurred, hikers have still been allowed to use pressurized gas stoves.

  5. #5


    Not relevant to the West but I live in the Southeast and backpack the TN and NC mountains. We have prescribed burns in the Cherokee NF and they can be a pain in the butt. My worst experience was coming out of the Citico wilderness to Grassy Gap where my car was parked and the trail was thick with smoke (and a climb of a thousand feet on a 3 mile trail).

    It was bad and my lungs hurt and I had to wrap a couple wet paper towels over my mouth and nose to hike out. When I got to my car I found the burn line a hundred feet away just on the other side of the road.

  6. #6
    Registered User
    Join Date
    In the shadow of Segments 22 and 23 between Lake City & Silverton.


    The fire outlook appears normal this year (see link). And it's been VERY WET the past week. June is generally the month to fear fires in Colorado as the monsoon rains haven't arrived (June is one of the driest months of the year in the mountains), but dry lightning isn't unusual. In 2012 & 2013, we had large fires here in the south and the 2013 West Complex fire burned over 100,000 acres (mostly beetle kill) just south of the CT in June and closed the CT for a few weeks. The fires usually are gone by early July with the arrival of the monsoon precipitation (July & August are the wettest months of the year in most of the mountain areas). Ron


  7. #7


    I came across a forest fire twice on my thru attempt. The first time I could see it from a couple miles away. The trail crossed a forest road a mile or so before the smoke. The fire was nowhere near the trail and I never got close to it. A couple miles in I came across another hiker and he told me that when he crossed the forest road there was a forest service truck there and they told him the trail was closed due to fire and he would have to turn back...he said he turned around but hid in the woods until they left and then continued on.

    The second time I saw an area that had obviously burned...one side of the trail was all black and the other hadn't been touched. The black side occasionally had a downed log smoldering...this went on for less than a mile.

  8. #8
    4eyedbuzzard's Avatar
    Join Date
    DFW, TX / Northern NH


    If you wait for a different year, you might as well not go. Fires are a natural yearly occurrence.
    I was self employed once, but it proved too stressful. My boss was a jerk and my employee was a slacker - I didn't know whether to quit or fire myself.

  9. #9
    Registered User Old Hiker's Avatar
    Join Date
    Tampa, Florida
    Old Hiker
    AT Hike 2012 - 497 Miles of 2184
    AT Thru Hiker - 29 FEB - 03 OCT 2016 2189.1 miles
    Just because my teeth are showing, does NOT mean I'm smiling.
    Hányszor lennél inkább máshol?

  10. #10


    Quote Originally Posted by 4eyedbuzzard View Post
    If you wait for a different year, you might as well not go. Fires are a natural yearly occurrence.
    Yes, if only the North Carolina National Forest Service knew this and let the fires burn. A century of fire suppression is apparently a policy of ignorance. I was backpacking in Slickrock wilderness in NC in 2007 and found a 2 acre clearcut on top of Hangover Mt to land a helicopter to fight a fire THAT WAS 2 MILES AWAY and 3,000 feet down the mountain. And yet the forest supervisor panicked and did the unthinkable. Pics of the clearcut follow.

    Think a designated wilderness is supremely protected from human interference? Think again.

  11. #11


    We recently had another fire in the Pine Barrens, NJ. If you want an ideia of where to be when one of these fire breaks out, pick the book "The Pine Barrens" by John McPhee

    He gives some good description of the differing types of forrest fires and there anatomy and characteristics, plus it's just a great book, by a great writer.


  12. #12


    Thanks to everyone for the great responses. Okay, I won't worry about it, and might carry the Delorme Atlas pages.

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