Here’s what it’s like driving through a wildfire

Nobody knows yet how many people are dead because they didn’t move quickly enough to escape fast-moving California wildfires.

Our homes and our stuff and, in some cases, our pets are a strong emotional anchor that often prevents us from recognizing, accepting, and reacting to a clear and present danger.

That’s why this video of a woman fleeing the Malibu fire is getting pushed bigtime by the authorities.

Rebecca Hackett made it out. She can live without the judgments, though.

  • Al

    Sweet Jesus.

    I know that seems far-fetched for Minnesotans, but there are other disasters that it helps to be prepared for. If you don’t have an emergency plan for your house, there are some really easy templates here:

    Make sure you also keep your family documents (birth certificates, passports, emergency cash) in one place, where you can easily grab it and run in case of emergency–friends in the foreign service call this their “go bag,” and while it seems overdramatic to have a go bag in Minnesota, it’s a great practice for collecting all of your stuff in one spot (a fireproof lockbox, for instance).

    • Al

      And it’s always a great time to check whether your emergency kit is up to date. We Minnesotans are aces at having emergency car kits, and emergency house kits are just as important.

      Along with checking your smoke detectors at daylight savings, check your house kit’s stash, too:

    • kevins


  • jon

    no photos of the vehicle?

    It looks a lot like driving through a blizzard, for the reduced visibility… and conditions that are inhospitable outside… but I’d guess the roads aren’t as slippery…

  • MrE85

    Here’s a look back at some of the worst wildfires in Minnesota history. Then, as now, whole towns were wiped out.Think of the terror faced by people who had no cars to flee in, as Ms. Hackett did.

  • Guest

    There has to be a deep fear when the road out loops back into the fire, essentially NO road that is only away from fire.

  • Nato Coles

    After watching that video, it seems incredible that she made it out! Terrifying.

  • Ben Chorn

    Here is one with traffic… terrifying

  • Jack

    I can’t begin to imagine the amount of courage to drive through the fires. Temptation would be to stay in the tunnel though I know that is the worst thing one could do.

    Really glad we revisited vacation plans during the summer wildfires. They certainly didn’t need tourists adding to the evacuation.

  • L. Foonimin

    Having been on national teams involved in dozens of western
    wildfires a couple of observations; As Bob notes, humans are often reluctant to
    leave their homes, livestock, pets, always thinking/hoping it won’t be as bad as
    predicted. Often with an attitude of “the government can’t tell me what to do,
    I’ll protect my own property.”

    Normally the County Sheriff is the only one with authority
    to declare a Mandatory Evacuation. Incident Management Team officials do not
    have the authority and can only advise the civil authorities.

    A “Mandatory Evacuation” isn’t.

    Very few elected Sheriffs will arrest a person and drag them out of their home unless there is a very clear case of child endangerment.

    One strategy I found effective as a Fire Information Officer assisting local sheriffs in evacuations – after explaining the need to leave right now and faced with individuals reluctant to do so I’d ask for the contact information of the family dentist. “It makes the identification of the remains much quicker so surviving family members can receive closure.”

    • …or give reluctant individuals a marker and tell them to write their SSN on their arm…to help with identifying their bodies…

      • Jack

        That works better with hurricanes and floods but it makes people think.

        • That’s where I first heard about it, when officials were trying to get people to leave prior to that last hurricane

  • davegrille

    This is terrifying.

  • Gary F

    Could ya roll down the window? It’s getting hot in here.