Driving during a bushfire is extremely dangerous and can result in serious injury or death; always plan to leave early to avoid this situation.
How to protect yourself
Take the following actions if you encounter smoke or flames and are not able to turn around and drive to safety.
Position the car to minimise exposure to radiant heat:
- Park away from dense bush – try to find a clearing.
- If possible, park behind a barrier such as a wall or rocky outcrop.
- The car should ideally face towards the oncoming fire front.
- Park off the roadway and turn hazard lights on. Car crashes are common in bushfires due to poor visibility
- To increase your chances of survival
- Stay in the car, and tightly close windows and doors.
- Cover up with woollen blankets and get down below window level – this is your highest priority.
- Drink water to prevent dehydration.
- As soon as you become aware that the fire front is close by:
- Shut all vents and turn the air conditioning off (this limits the circulation of toxic fumes caused by burning plastic).
- Turn the engine off
Be prepared: if you drive in high bushfire risk areas, keep woollen blankets in your car. This is an essential precaution during the warmer months.
Footage inside a car showing what an ember attack looks like during a major bushfire.
Footage from Canberra fires 2003 provided for use by CFA for community safety educational use courtesy Nine Network.