In 2018, the Howe Ridge Fire broke out near Glacier National Park in Montana.
The wildfire was started by a lightning strike near Lake McDonald.
In total, 13 homes and 14 other structures were destroyed, and the fire burned over 13,000 acres and cost over 6 million dollars to fight.
No lives were lost in the fire, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t any close calls.
Justin B. and his father Charles had been on a father-son trip in the National Park when the fire erupted – and their trip almost took a deadly turn.
When they learned about the wildfire the two men decided it was best to leave camp.
The pair gathered their gear and headed through the woods toward their rental car, planning to drive back along Lake McDonald Road, the way they came in.
“Everything looked fine for the most part,” Justin said of the start of their drive. “We thought, ‘We can get out of here.”
At first, there was some “fire near the road,” he said…
But after they took a few more turns, the situation turned ugly.
“It was an inferno. It was walls of flames on both sides of the car,” he said. “The car started getting hot fast. It felt like it was a 100-degree day, and your car had been sitting in the parking lot all day.”
They became trapped in their car along a winding forest road, surrounded by a wall of flames and smoke.
“I have never seen anything like it,” Justin said. “It was like looking at a war zone — like a nuclear bomb had gone off.”
All around the vehicle, charred trees were lit up in the forest air.
Things only got worse when a burned tree fell across the forest road blocking their escape.
Justin threw the car into reverse and drove back the way they had come – at times the car reached 40 mph on the narrow dirt road.
When they returned to the campsite, they ran down to the lake to see if there was anyone in the nearby cabins.
That’s when they found two people on Lake McDonald in a boat.
The boaters came to shore and picked up the father and son.
Within ten minutes, the shoreline was up in flames.
Two days later, the men were safe and flying home – the only things they had left were the clothes on their back.
But they were thankful to be alive. If those folks in the boat hadn’t picked them up, they wouldn’t have survived.
These days, people are building homes in remote locations (this is especially true for folks that want to live off the grid or get away from the big city).
But when you’re in remote locations you may be susceptible to the threat of wildfires.
So, if you live in a remote location, or vacation in places where fires are known to occur, here are a few things you should consider adding to your bug-out bag.
I know we are all sick and tired of talking about masks, but in a wildfire they are critical.
At the very least, you should store enough N95 masks in your bug-out bag for each family member.
The N95 masks can filter particles from the air, but they will not filter out harmful gases (which is much better than nothing).
Ideally, you want to get a true gas mask such as the Mira Safety Tactical Gas Mask.
This works with a specific smoke/carbon monoxide filter cartridge.
This will cost about $250 but is well worth the expense if you live in an area prone to wildfires.
If you come across burned items you might not have a choice but to move them.
For instance, if a log was blocking the road, you might not have a choice but to push it out of the way.
Now, no glove is going to protect you from roaring flames, but heat-resistant gloves (such as welding gloves or grilling gloves like BlueFire BBQ Gloves) can protect your hands from the heat.
Also, don’t forget to protect your eyes…
Regular sunglasses are better than nothing.
Yet, with embers and smoke all around, work goggles that provide a seal around your eyes are the best option.
When bugging out, one of the most important choices you will make is what you will be wearing while on the move.
You want to wear clothes that will best protect you from heat, embers, and flames.
For this, you’ll want to wear fabrics such as denim or wool. Natural fabrics are better than synthetic ones.
Also, you’ll want to wear long pants and a long sleeve shirt that you can tuck into your pants.
Leather boots tend to hold up best to the heat, so these should be part of your gear.
Again, you can have this gear packed in your bug out bag or wear these clothes from the start.
Lastly, don’t forget to wear a hat that can help protect your head from debris.
One of the many reasons wildfires are so dangerous is because they can appear suddenly and create damage in a short amount of time.
If you live in an area where wildfires occur you need to be prepared ahead of time.
You may only be given a few minutes to leave. This means you change into your fire clothes, grab your bug out bag, and get out.