For anyone traveling into the backcountry whatever the means of transport, taking precautions to prevent wildfire starts and knowing what to do to stay safe if a wildfire ignites near your location are essential outdoor skills.
That’s why we’re grateful to have experienced wildlands firefighter, Jessica Braun, share her extensive knowledge and insight to help us learn what we can do to both prevent wildfires and stay safe when adventuring into the backcountry during fire season.
Jess explains current theory and practice being implemented by the U.S.F.S. (United States Forest Service) to mitigate wildfire danger and what to know about how different types of forest management may affect wildfire severity in an area where you may be recreating.
Jess, Jimmy, and co-host, Leah, deep-dive into the many different ways one can accidentally ignite a wildfire when camping and enjoying a variety of forms of vehicle-based recreation in the backcountry during fire season. Whether driving your vehicle, building a campfire, or enjoying some camp cooking, Jess explains best practices for preventing those wildfire starts from happening in the first place.
And if you find yourself far into the backcountry when a wildfire erupts, what do you do next? How do you report the wildfire start? How do you escape being caught in a wildfire and what is the best way to stay safe if you are caught within one? Jess shares her approach to pre-scouting recommended before adventuring into fire-prone areas, how to be prepared for an emergency evacuation in the event of a wildfire, and best practices for surviving if you find yourself trapped by the flames.
There are few places in the world where wildfire is not an issue for those heading into the backcountry. Enjoy becoming more wildfire aware and learn the basics of preventing wildfires and staying safe during fire season by joining our conversation with Jessica Braun.
Detailed Episode Summary
Part 1 (0:40-3:30) Welcome Wildlands Firefighter and Fire Break Management Owner/Founder, Jess Braun of Bozeman, MT, and Intro to This Episode’s Topic of Wildfire Prevention and Safety for Outdoor Enthusiasts: We welcome Jess Braun, wildlands firefighter and business owner onto the podcast to discuss wildfire prevention and safety for outdoor enthusiasts–overlanders, campers, mountain bikers, off-roaders, hunters, etc. Jess is a highly experienced wildlands firefighter who, along with fighting wildfires, also owns her own business which helps property owners defend themselves, their property, and their communities from the destructive power of a wildfire. Jess is here to help all of us who love recreating in the outdoors prevent wildfires and stay safe in the backcountry during active fire seasons.
Part 2 (3:31-21:51) What Does Wildfire Season Look Like Through the Eyes of a Wildlands Firefighter and from a U.S.F.S. Management Perspective? Jess explains her background working with the U.S. Forest Service, her evolution to becoming a wildlands firefighter, and her decision to start a business helping people prevent and protect themselves and their property from wildfires. Jimmy and Jess discuss current theory being practiced by the U.S. Forest Service to manage wildfires.
Extra Resources Mentioned in this Part of the Episode:
Documentary Film, Elemental: Reimagine Wildfire
Part 3 (21:52-29:51) How Do We Know Where the Wildfires Are Burning and How Do We Avoid Them? Jess explains how to use the “Inciweb Resource” to know where and when prescribed burns will be taking place and where wildfires are currently burning. Jess further explains the concept of wildfire “seasons” and how to be aware of the fire seasons in areas you’ll be recreating.
InciWeb (Wildfire Location Resource)
U.S. Forest Service NFDRS (National Fire Danger Rating System)
Part 4 (29:52-34:18) A Look at Modern Campfire Equipment and Devices to Help Prevent Wildfires: It’s 2023, and there’s a lot of new gear and equipment out there to replace the traditional firepit. These devices claim to reduce the likelihood of starting a wildfire while enhancing the campfire experience all around. Jess, Jimmy, and Leah discuss today’s modern campfire equipment and take a look at the benefits of using these devices.
Modern Firepit Devices Mentioned in this Part of the Episode:
NRS Fire Pan
Part 5 (34:19-39:00) Preventing Wildfires While Camp Cooking: Jimmy, Leah, and Jess look at various approaches to camp cooking relative to fire danger and discuss ways to mitigate the risk of starting a wildfire while camp cooking. We also discuss specific types of camp cooking devices relative to fire danger and when it might be appropriate to not use a cooking device at all.
Part 6 (39:01-43:14) What Tools Should You Take Along to Mitigate, Contain, and/or Extinguish a Fire? Fire Extinguishers, Pulaskis, Shovels, Water Buckets–Jess shares the best tools to have along to prevent, contain, and/or extinguish a fire and how to use them effectively. Jess also explains best practices for digging a traditional firepit and problems to avoid when using one.
Part 7 (43:15-46:02) How Do We Know When Our Campfire is DEAD OUT? We all know that the Forest Service wants to make sure that campfires are DEAD OUT after you are done enjoying them. Jess explains how to ensure your campfire is dead out and best practices for extinguishing a campfire.
Part 8 (46:03-52:46) How Do We Prevent Our Vehicles from Starting a Wildfire? Our overland vehicles are complicated pieces of machinery often featuring elaborate electronic systems and numerous elements of the engine and drivetrain capable of producing sparks and heat. Off-road driving can also create stress that leads to extremely hot mechanical elements (e.g. brakes). Jess, Jimmy, and Leah discuss what to be aware of when it comes to the ability of your vehicle to start a wildfire and how to mitigate this risk.
Part 9 (52:47-1:03:36) What Should You Do If You’re Caught in a Wildfire? We’ve discussed best practices for preventing the start of a wildfire, but what do you do if you’re caught in a wildfire? For example, you’re 30 miles down some rugged forest service roads, a lightning/thunderstorm occurs, and a wildfire starts somewhere near your camp and begins spreading quickly. Jess explains best practices for responding to and, if need be, escaping this situation safely.
Part 10 (103:37– End) What Do You Do If You Spot a Wildfire Staring? Personal Responsibility in Preventing Wildfires and Thoughts on Wildfires as a “Natural Disaster”: Jimmy, Leah, and Jess discuss the similarities between being prepared to use the backcountry in winter (avalanche safety measures) and preparing yourself to head into wildfire-prone areas in the summer. Jess shares some final insight on what personal responsibility looks like when it comes to preventing wildfires and takes a look at how to consider wildfire as a natural disaster. Finally, Jess explains what to do–whom to alert and how to alert them–if you see a wildfire starting when you’re in the backcountry.