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Posts tagged ‘brush fire’

A to Z: W is for Wildfire


I was going to talk about Working fire today, but I already went into that a bit on Friday. So, instead I decided to write about wildfires. A wildfire is an uncontrolled fire in an area with combustible vegetation. There are three types of wildfires: bushfire(in Australia), Forest fire, or a brush fire. Around here, we don’t have many forest fires, although that’s probably what most people think of when they hear wildfire. We do have a lot of calls for brush fires during the summer however. A lot of times, these can be put out quickly, but some departments do have a truck dedicated to these outside fires. These are mostly pickup trucks that may have had the bed refitted to haul hose and other equipment needed.

By Kern County Fire Department [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Forest fires can be the most dangerous. And the wildland firefighters have more to contend with than just the flames. Most of these fires occur during the hotter months, so there’s already heat added to that of the fire. So, they can face heat stress, fatigue(as these fires aren’t easily or quickly put out), and even animal bites. The protective gear is heavy and can lead to heat exhaustion. Also wildfire behavior can be unpredictable. It only takes a shift of wind forĀ  the path of the fire to change. This can end up trapping firefighters who thought they were containing it.

By Bureau of Land Management [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

There are some different methods of suppressing these fires. One is by dropping water and fire retardants from planes and helicopters. Also firelines can be made by digging trenches, cutting back trees, and also backburning. This seems counterintuitive, as it means setting fires to suppress a fire. But, these fires are smaller, controlled burns. However, since these are controlled, they can often be extinguished quickly and then there is no more fuel for the main fire to burn. Sometimes the two fires meet, though, but once again with nothing left to fuel it, the main fire can be more easily suppressed.

By U.S. Department of Agriculture (Flickr: 20120628-F-JQ435-046) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Of course, once the fire is out, the danger isn’t over. These large fires often leaves areas smoldering, even if there aren’t flames and this poses a risk of re-ignition. So, the burn area needs to be completely cooled. And there’s still more work to be done after that. All the things done to put the fire out, along with the loss of vegetation, can cause soil erosion. Which can lead to more problems. To counteract this, waterbars can be built. Also, new plants and debris can be added to exposed soil to limit the damage.


Charred forest following a fire in the North Cascades, Washington. Ground vegetation is just beginning to return. Originally uploaded to the English Project by Bcasterline



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