The threat of wildland fires for people living near wildland areas or using recreational facilities in wilderness areas is real and occur over 100 times every year.
Advance planning and knowing how to protect buildings and your family in these areas can lessen the devastation of a wildland fire.
A wildfire is an unplanned, unwanted wildland fire including unauthorized human-caused fires. Vegetation fires are caused by slash and burn land clearing, clearing of plantations following logging operations, and by natural events such as lightning or extreme drought. During dry seasons fires usually reach a peak and can present a trans-boundary problem when prevailing winds disperse the smoke across borders to other countries.
Characteristics/Measurements: There are three different classes of wildland fires.
A surface fire is the most common type and burns along the floor of a forest, moving slowly and killing or damaging trees, especially young trees.
A ground fire are usually started by lightning. They burn on or below the forest floor in the humus layer down to the mineral soil.
Crown fires spread rapidly by wind and move quickly by jumping along the tops of trees. Wildland fires are usually signaled by dense smoke that fills the area for miles around. More than four out of every five wildland fires are started by people. Negligent human behavior, such as smoking in forested areas or improperly extinguishing campfires, is the cause of many wildland fires. Lightning is another cause.
Impacts/Causes of injury and damage: Destruction of vegetated and eventually inhabited areas and construction sites, potentially leading to large areas with ecological and economical losses. A major wildland fire can leave a large amount of scorched and barren land. These areas may not to return to pre-fire conditions for decades. If the wildland destroyed the ground cover, then erosion becomes one of several potential problems.
Smoke and other emissions contain pollutants that can cause significant health problems. The short-term effects contain destruction of timber, forage, wildlife habitats, scenic vistas, and watersheds. Furthermore the long-term effects contain reduced access to recreational areas; destruction of community infrastructure and cultural and economic resources.
Emergency action: Control Techniques: Bushfires are usually fought by numerous trained volunteers and a core of professional firefighters with vehicle -mounted equipment (in accessible terrain). Observation is often provided by light aircraft and helicopters. Water-bombing is also provided by helicopters with buckets which lift water from dams, lakes or swimming pools. They are effective in stopping spot fires ignited by windborne firebrands, sometimes kilometers ahead of the main fire-front. This greatly assists and contributes to the safety of firefighting crews. In large bushfires, bulldozers and graders are used to create emergency firebreaks ahead of fire fronts. Back-burning from firebreaks is frequently effective in slowing or stopping the spread of fire.
Mitigation: Mitigation includes any activities that prevent an emergency, reduce the chance of an emergency happening, or lessen the damaging effects of unavoidable emergencies. Investing in preventive mitigation steps now such as installing a spark arrestor on your chimney, cleaning roof surfaces and gutters regularly and using only fire resistant materials on the exterior of your home, will help reduce the impact of wildland fires in the future. For more information on mitigation, contact your local emergency management office.
All people who live, work, or play in areas prone to wildland fire should carefully consider how to get out of the area quickly and safely in case of fire. In addition, residents in areas at risk for wildland fire should do everything possible to minimize their vulnerability. One of the most important ways to protect yourself and your property is to use fire-resistant materials outside and inside your home. You should also maintain a buffer zone around your home to reduce the odds that a wildland fire could reach your home.