Predicting a wildfire season is tricky business, but 2012 is already shaping up to be one of the worst fire years on record. Fire managers in the federal fire command center in Boise, Idaho, are watching a widening Western drought, 450 square miles burning in New Mexico's Gila wilderness, and the potential for explosive breakouts where suburbia meets the forest.
I spent the summer of 2001 researching a book about forest fires. In July of that year the Thirtymile Fire in northeast Washington state overran a crew of firefighters, killing four of them. Among the survivors: Two backpackers who had tried to drive out to escape the fire, but became trapped with the firefighters when fire blocked the only road out.
Wildfires are dangerously unpredictable, but here are a few tips in case you're headed into the tinderbox backcountry this summer.