A man is stranded on an island covered in forest.

There are no other humans or animals, he is the only one who lives on the island.

One day, when the wind is blowing from the west, lightning strikes the west end of the island and sets fire to the forest. The fire is very violent, burning everything in its path, and without intervention the fire will burn the whole island, killing the man in the process.

There are cliffs around the island, so he cannot jump off.

How can the man survive the fire? (There are no buckets nor any other means to put out the fire. He also has no tools to use.)


2 Answers 2


The man picks up a piece of wood and lights it from the fire on the west end of the island.

He then quickly carries it near the east end of he island and starts a new fire. The wind will cause that fire to burn out the eastern end and he can then shelter in the burnt area.

  • $\begingroup$ good one But i have already accepted another answer. Better luck next time $\endgroup$
    – kavi temre
    Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ i think this is the best way to survive fire if the island is not small $\endgroup$
    – kavi temre
    Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 16:42
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @kavitemre You can change to accept a different answer if you think it provides a better solution. $\endgroup$
    – Bob
    Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 16:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Unless the wind is too strong, the fire could travel eastwards too. $\endgroup$
    – CodeNewbie
    Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 16:53

There are no means to put out the fire, so maybe he can attempt to circumvent the fire. Since he has survived on the island alone for so long, we can assume he has the basic tools for survival. In this case, an axe is all he needs.

Assume the island is circular (any shape can be considered). I have taken the liberty of drawing an image for our understanding. The orange star is the origin of the fire, and it moves westward in a growing almost circular arc (not necessarily circular, since the wind will force it to cover more area in the westward direction.) Assume the blue circle is our lonely man, who we will call Chuck Noland for the sake of this solution.

enter image description here

So Chuck can simply move and cut off the trees in a sector of the forest in a triangular fashion as shown by the white section between the dark green lines, with one end as close to the centre as possible. The fire will reach the westward side of the sector first and die out soon as there are no more trees in its path. Meanwhile, the fire will take some time to reach the other side of the sector, starting from the centre and moving upwards. While the westward side is on fire, Chuck can stand close to the eastward side until the fire burns out the trees on the westward side. Once the fire has died on the westward side, he can move towards the burnt part and then stay put till the fire burns out the trees on the eastward side.

So Chuck has evaded death by fire, but with no more trees to provide fruits nor any animals to hunt and no usable wood to build himself a raft either, it's only a matter of time before Chuck dies of starvation. A pitiable end after a brilliant escape.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ If he has an axe, why not chop down a strip of forest around and as close to the origin of the fire? The fire will die out and most of the vegetation on the island will be left intact. $\endgroup$
    – jarnbjo
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 11:51
  • $\begingroup$ @jarnbjo time i believe, in forest fire cam spread very quickly, while chopping down some trees is not easy and quick task $\endgroup$
    – user902383
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 14:42

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