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Ways to walk safely during mega-fires

Wildfire is a hard-to-predict danger that can cause irreparable damage. Climate change adds to the risk of this wildfire burning uncontrollably. The unpredictability of this disease enables us to tak

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Aug. 21— The threat of wildfire, always present in the back of a hiker’s mind, is now front and center as climate change causes weather and forest conditions that make fires start more easily and spread much faster. Today’s stronger and more sustained winds allow forest fires to advance more rapidly and less predictably, sending embers ahead and to the sides that can ignite new blazes. Flames can tear through forest faster than a person can run.

With megafires becoming increasingly common in California’s mountains, outdoor enthusiasts must take extra precautions when venturing into the backcountry. Here are some tips for getting ready and staying safe, provided by those in the know:

Before heading out into the backcountry, it’s a good idea to check websites like InciWeb for fire updates and PurpleAir for air quality readings.

* Make sure loved ones back home are aware of your whereabouts and travel plans, and keep a close eye on your environment in case you need to make a hasty exit. Find out if fires are forbidden in your destination. In addition to your smartphone and any mapping apps you might need, you should bring paper maps.

Stay in close contact with people who are not in the wilderness but may have better access to weather and fire information, and use cell phones and satellite-based devices to monitor weather, fires, wind, air quality, and alerts like Red Flag wildfire warnings. The popular Garmin inReach satellite communicator doubles as a rescue beacon, but hikers who’d rather not be constantly connected might be better off with a dedicated personal locator beacon. Stay alert and read the signs at trailheads and trail intersections. Bring a N95 mask in case of smoke. Keep an eye out for smoke and use your sense of smell to locate it. A hike or stay near standing dead trees in a windy area should be avoided, as should areas with holes where trees once stood.

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