Island of Fire

You and your friend have been dropped off by helicopter at the southern end of an island in order to observe an endangered species of bird.

The island is very small. It’s only a hundred yards wide and a thousand yards long. It also has sheer cliffs hundreds of feet high all around it. But finding the rare bird will be difficult because the island is covered in thick brush that’s five feet tall.

Unfortunately, even before you’ve started your search things take a bad turn. You see smoke. As the helicopter took off over the northern end of the island, the pilot flicked out a cigarette butt and inadvertently started a fire that smoldered unobserved for a while and then flared up. It’s now being fanned by a strong wind heading in your direction, and you have no way of contacting the helicopter or calling for help.

The fire will reach you in half an hour. You don’t have any tools with you, so you try to dig a hole with your hands but the ground is too hard. You look over the edge of the cliffs and realize that even climbing down a few feet is impossible, and jumping would mean certain death.

Even from where you’re standing you can tell the heat of the fire is intense. Trying to run through it would be fatal.

So, in order to survive, what do you and your friend do?

Island Fire

Thanks to Everything He Hasn’t Told You Yet by Burton Silver & Martin O’Connor

4 thoughts on “Island of Fire

  1. Use the wind to your advantage. Start a fire (shouldn’t be difficult) at a point halfway between the main fire’s front and the south edge of the island. Retreat to the north of your fire, and the south of the main fire. The wind will blow your new fire south, leaving scorched earth behind it.

    It may add a margin of safety to do this on the east or west edge of the island. The wind will blow more directly on the brush there, being less shielded by surrounding brush, so the fire will travel south faster and be less likely to double back. If you have time and it’s possible, clear some brush to the north of your fire to ensure it gives you some safe land to stand on as soon as possible.

    Follow your fire southward at a safe distance. Of course, when the main fire reaches the earth scorched by your fire, it runs out of fuel and goes away.

    Nice puzzles!!

  2. Thanks Steve,

    You’re a good puzzle solver.

    Most people, it seems, will avoid any thought of moving toward the original fire, or starting another one.


  3. Find some flammable material, preferably somwthing with some length, like a stick. Go the the existing fire. Light the stick. Go somewhere else. Light the brush.

    Or, take off your shirt and belt. Knot the shirt into a ball of fabric, and loop the arms through the belt buckle a few times. Approach the existing fire, and swing the shirt end of the belt into the flames. Continue as above.

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