At the time of this writing, there is a horrific wildfire sweeping through Alberta in Canada. Fort McMurray is an oil town smack dab in the middle of the disaster. Over 80,000 people, the entire population of the town, are under mandatory evacuation orders. Other towns in the area are taking those folks into their homes and setting up emergency shelters in schools and recreation centers.
I always advocate that hunkering down at home is the best plan in most situations but you should consider the possibility that you’ll need to evacuate for your own safety. Obviously, this wildfire is a prime example of the latter. In some neighborhoods of Fort McMurray over 80% of the homes have been destroyed.
One thing I’ve found rather interesting is how many of those affected are utilizing social media to stay in touch as well as gather information. This group on Facebook is one example. People are able to use the group to connect with available resources. I’ve seen posts from campground owners who are offering open RV stalls at no charge as well as from people who have a spare room or two in their homes. People in need of specific supplies are being taken care of rather quickly, too, from what I’m reading.
I’ve talked until I’m blue in the face about the importance of being realistic with your bug out planning. I’ve talked about Lone Wolf Syndrome as well as the Living Off the Land Fallacy time and time again. Something I just can’t stress enough is to reconsider any plans you may have for heading off to the woods to hunt, trap, and fish until the crisis passes. Listen, this isn’t Red Dawn, this is real life. Odds are extremely high that whatever the disaster is that forces you from your home will also probably affect your ability to live off the land in the forest. Think about it – what disasters are most likely to cause you to evacuate? How many of them won’t affect the surrounding area?
Hunting and trapping while living in a small cabin sounds great unless the forest around you is a blazing inferno, one that even Hollywood CGI artists look at and say, “Damn….”
Another consideration is timing. The number of evacuees is about 80,000. Let’s say there’s an average of four people to a car, that’s 20,000 vehicles hitting the road. All it takes is one relatively minor accident or a stalled car and that line of vehicles comes to a halt. Here’s one image of the evacuation, posted by radio station CAOS91.1.
Wildfires can move fast but odds are pretty good that there was time for these folks to hightail it out of town prior to this mandatory evacuation order. I have to wonder how many did decide to beat feet ahead of the crowd. This is where situational awareness comes into play. SA isn’t just about keeping your head on a swivel while walking down the street. It is about being conscious of the world around you. Which do you think is the better option?
1) Spending the night in a motel a few towns away from home and have it turn out to be for nothing.
2) Being trapped on a highway that is now a parking lot because you waited too long to evacuate, while a wildfire nips at your heels.
Bugging out is never a desirable option. You’re leaving behind the bulk of your supplies as well as the safety and security of your home. But, there are situations where you won’t have a choice and you’ll need to hit the road. Plan accordingly and be realistic.
P.S. There is a special part of Hell for those con artists who take advantage of tragedies like this and set up fake charities and such. Before donating money or goods, please do your homework and ensure the organization is legit.