Global wildfires - advice for travellers

14 January 2020

Article: 54/203

A wildfire is an unplanned fire in a natural area such as forest, grassland or prairie. Wildfires, which can start naturally or trough human activity, can be unpredictable, fast-moving and destructive. The risk of a fire occurring increases during dry periods, droughts and where there are strong winds. Wildfires occur seasonally in some countries.

Because of the impact of global warming on climate change, it is predicted that the frequency of wildfires will increase. During recent years, wildfires have occurred in many areas of the world including the Arctic region, Australia and Tasmania, Bolivia, Brazil and the Amazon basin region, Canada, the Canary Islands, Greece, Indonesia, Russia, and the US.

As well as immediate danger caused by burns, smoke lingers in the area of the fire and can also spread, which may cause short or long-term health effects on respiratory or cardiac function.

Travellers are advised that, if travelling to an area that is affected by wildfires, they should:

  • Prepare by checking the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website for current travel advisories and follow advice provided.
  • Discuss travel plans with their healthcare provider, especially if they have a pre-existing condition that might make them more vulnerable to the effects of smoke. 
  • Check the country information for other health advice. 
  • Obtain comprehensive travel health insurance that covers all activities they want to do, and any pre-existing health conditions that they have.

If travellers are in an area which is under a fire warning, they should move to a safe area and follow the instructions of local authorities.

Source: National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC), 8 January 2020