A wildfire set out in huge flames along Southern California freeway leading to Las Vegas on Friday afternoon, July 17. The scorching fire took over the jam-packed highway, which resulted in a chaotic scene in the then gridlocked stretch of road. Firefighters and authorities came to the rescue, and when they induced the area with significant amounts of water, the motorists started running out of their vehicles and rushed to the brush located within the area.

The brush fire, which occurred in the foothills of San Bernardino County to be exact, initially set a 500-acre area aflamed; however, the fire spread and affected up to 3,500 acres of land in a couple of hours, says the US Forest Service. According to the same agency, about 60 vehicle owners fled to the nearby brush and abandoned their cars on Cajon Pass. A total of 10 vehicles were damaged and 20, destroyed. The flames also swallowed four structures and a couple of communities in the mountains, causing them to face potential need for evacuations.

Brush fire may be encountered by anyone while inside their vehicles. People should be on a heightened alert should they face a potential or existing wildfire. While staying in the car may be safer than being caught in the open fire, extreme caution should still be practiced.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends interventions to help aid individuals, who may be caught in a brush fire while inside a vehicle. These survival tips include:

  • Stay inside the car as it is more dangerous to come out in the open where the fire is in full swing. Trying to run away on foot may be more hazardous.

  • Close all windows and air vents. Put headlights on and drive in a slow pace. Be mindful of other vehicles and pedestrians passing by. When the smoke is too heavy, do not attempt to drive through it.

  • When face in a situation where the vehicle must be stopped, it is recommended to find a spot, which is far from the heaviest-looking trees or structures. Turn the headlight on and the car ignition off. Close windows and air vents.

  • Get down on the floor and wrap self in a coat or blanket, whichever is available.

  • Stay inside the vehicle and wait for the main fire to pass.

  • The engine of the car may slow down and the vehicle might not restart. Be informed that air currents may sway the car and portion of the smoke may enter the vehicle. Temperature increase inside the car may also occur but metal gas containers do not typically explode.

The risk of getting harmed in the midst of a brush fire, whether inside or outside the car, depends on the different variables present during the time of the incident. Although it is more recommended to stay inside the car when caught in a wildfire, the most effective interventions for survival varies and no single standard may be set to guarantee safety given the complexity of possible situations.

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