3 tips for hiking and camping during wildfire season | PEMCO

June 10, 2024 by PEMCO Insurance

GettyImages-183293453.jpgOne of the best parts of living in the Pacific Northwest is the access to breathtaking scenery that you simply can’t experience anywhere else in the country. Whether you like to explore Mt. Rainier, Central Oregon, the foothills of Eastern Washington, or any place in between, it’s important for all outdoor enthusiasts to know how to stay safe when it comes to wildfire. 

This year, the state of Washington has already declared a drought due to reduced snowpack and diminished rainfall. This has the potential to have a big impact on wildfire danger for PNW residents. While we don’t have the capacity to wholly stop all wildfires, we can be equipped with the information we need to prevent starting fires ourselves (e.g. with campfires or fireworks), as well as how to respond if one ignites near us while hiking or camping. 
Follow these tips to become a wildfire-wise PNW outdoor enthusiast. 

Tip 1: Check the fire danger and restrictions before you go 

Before you plan your hiking or camping trip, make sure to check the current fire danger and restrictions in the area you want to visit. You can find this information on the websites of the U.S. Forest Service, the Washington Department of Natural Resources, or the Oregon Department of Forestry. Depending on the fire danger level, you may need to follow certain rules or regulations, such as avoiding campfires, using only approved stoves or lanterns, or staying on designated trails. You may also need to obtain a permit or a pass to access certain areas.  

Tip 2: Use fire wisely and responsibly 

If you’re allowed to have a campfire, make sure to use it wisely and responsibly.  

  • Choose a site that is at least 15 feet away from any flammable materials, such as trees, shrubs, grass, or tents.  

  • Use a fire ring or a metal container to contain the fire and prevent it from spreading.  

  • Keep the fire small and manageable, and never leave it unattended.  

  • Use only dry and dead wood that you find on the ground, and avoid burning any trash, plastics, or chemicals.  

  • When you are done, make sure to extinguish the fire completely by pouring water and stirring the ashes until they are cold.  

  • Dispose of the ashes in a metal container or bury them in a hole.  

  • Never leave a fire smoldering or smoking, as it can easily reignite and cause a wildfire. 

Tip 3: Be prepared and know your way out 

Even if you follow all fire prevention tips, you may still encounter a wildfire when hiking or camping in the Pacific Northwest. (Remember, some wildfires are entirely unpredictable!) That's why it's important to be prepared and know your route out.  

Before you go, make sure to pack a survival kit that includes: 

  • Water 

  • Food 

  • A flashlight 

  • First aid kit 

  • Map and/or compass (your smart phone likely won’t have service) 

Be aware of your surroundings and familiarize yourself with where you’re going in advance. This way, you will have an idea of the best path out. If you are hiking or camping with others, consider setting a designated meet-up spot in case of an emergency. 
If you see or smell smoke, hear sirens, or see emergency helicopters, it’s probably best to leave the area entirely. Don’t try to outrun or fight the fire yourself, as it can move swiftly and change directions unpredictably. 
If you're ever trapped by a wildfire, try to find a safe zone such as a lake, river, or any other body of water, and stay low to the ground. Cover your mouth and nose with a wet cloth or mask. 

At PEMCO, we care about the safety of our customers and community. Together, we can all do our part to be responsible stewards of this beautiful place we call home and mitigate the impact of wildfire. We’re better together. 

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