If Trapped While Driving

Being on the road for any reason during a bushfire is extremely dangerous - last minute evacuations are a deadly option.


Research shows that sheltering inside a vehicle is a high risk strategy and it is highly unlikely that a person will survive in all but the mildest circumstances.

Whilst sheltering inside a vehicle offers a slightly higher chance of survival than being caught in the open, preparing your home, and deciding early whether you stay or go, is a much safer option.

A well thought out bushfire survival plan is vital for all residents in bushfire prone areas. Plan to remain with your home and defend it if this is a safe option, or leave early to a safe area well before a bushfire threatens your home.

Travel in the country during the bushfire season needs to be done with caution and vigilance.

Monitor ABC Radio or local radio for news about where bushfires are burning.
There are a range of factors that may impact on your survival chances if you are travelling in an area affected by bushfires, and the following may help to minimise the level of risk:
If you see a bushfire in the distance, pull over to the side of the road to assess the situation. If it is safe to do so, turn around and drive to safety.
If you have been trapped by the fire, find a suitable place to park the car as far as possible from any bushfire fuels, and prepare to shelter in your car from the bushfire’s intense radiant heat.
Positioning your car
·         Find a clearing away from dense bush and other high fuel loads.
·         Where possible, minimise exposure to radiant heat by parking in a cutting or behind a natural barrier such as a rocky outcrop.
·         Position the car facing towards the oncoming fire.
·         Park the car off the roadway to avoid collisions in poor visibility.
·         Don't park too close to other vehicles.
Inside your car
·         Stay inside your car - it offers the best level of protection from the radiant heat as the fire front passes, unless there's a well-protected building nearby.
·         Leave the engine running.
·         Turn headlights and hazard warning lights on to make the car as visible as possible.
·         Tightly close all windows and doors.
·         Shut all the air vents and turn the air conditioning on to 'full' and 'recirculate'.
·         Get down below the window level into the foot wells and shelter under woollen blankets.
·         Drink water to minimise the risks of dehydration.
When the fire front passes
·                 As the fire front approaches, the heat, smoke and embers will increase.
·                 Smoke will enter the car and fumes will be released from interior plastics. Stay as close to the floor as possible to minimise inhalation of fumes and cover mouth with a moist cloth.
·                 Tyres and external plastic body parts may catch alight. In more extreme cases the car interior may catch on fire.
·                 If possible, stay in the car until the fire front has passed and the temperature has dropped outside.
·         Fuel tanks are very unlikely to explode.
·                 Once the fire front has passed and the temperature has dropped, carefully exit the car - metal parts will be extremely hot.
·                 Move to a safe area such as a strip of land that has already burnt.
·                 Stay covered in woollen blankets, continue to drink water and await assistance.
More information about this topic is available from the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre website and the Australasian Fire Authorities Council website.