How to Prevent Wildfires for Organizations in 8 Steps
Wildfires can be a major threat to both public safety and the environment, and it is important for organizations to take steps to reduce their risk. One of the key ways that organizations can do this is by implementing fire prevention measures, such as maintaining clear defensible space around buildings, conducting regular fire drills and evacuations, and properly storing and managing flammable materials.
By taking these steps, organizations can help to prevent fires from starting and protect their employees, customers, and communities from the devastating impacts of wildfires.
Preventing wildfires is a shared responsibility that requires the effort of organizations and individuals. Equipment used by organizations alone causes 11% of fires — twice the amount of fires caused by campfires.
In the United States, humans cause about 85% of all wildfires annually, according to the National Park Service.
The amount of forest fires has risen steadily since 1983, year-on-year, according to data gathered by the National Fire Center.
Natural causes can sometimes result in forest fires. Periodic low-intensity forest fires can be good for the environment. These natural fires can assist in forest decomposition, which is good for the growth of new trees and plants and creates a sustainable habitat for wildlife in the area.
But climate change and growing populations now mean that the frequency of forest fires has become a real issue. They are dangerous for the environment, have long-term impacts on human health and can cost governments and organisations millions globally.
We can do many things to help prevent wildfires, and this blog post will explore some of the key ways to prevent wildfires — particularly for organizations.
Which organizations can wildfires affect?
Wildfires are not just bad for the environment and wildlife; they're bad for human life and come at a substantial cost to organizations. Here's a list of organizations that wildfires might affect:
Governmental bodies — including national park organizations and local municipalities
Park rangers — whose key role is to maintain and protect lands
Forestry organizations — whose livelihood depends on healthy forests
Electricity companies — who are responsible for maintaining lines in forested areas and whose infrastructure can cause fires in the first place
Water companies — that own dams are likely to be affected by incidental destruction
Insurance companies — who have to pay damages to affected homeowners and communities
First responders — particularly the fire department
What can cause wildfires?
While natural wildfire causes can include lightning and volcanic activity, most are caused by humans.
Of all wildfires in the USA, 97% of those that threaten homes are caused by people. These fires can spread twice as fast as naturally-occurring fires. Most of these fires are caused by carelessness or an accident, like campfires, cigarettes, or burning debris from a garden. However, some are caused intentionally.
To learn more about the causes of wildfires, look at our article on “How Do Wildfires Start?”
How to prevent wildfires for organizations
So, with all of this in mind: what can we do to prevent wildfires? Wildfire prevention for businesses, government bodies, and insurance companies is vital. The longer fires burn, the greater the environmental and financial cost.
If you belong to one of the organizations above, the following advice is for you:
1. Conduct a risk assessment
Risk assessments are a big part of any organization, particularly if you work in forestry, utilities, or local planning. If you already have a risk assessment template, incorporate forest fire prevention planning or create a new one. Include some of the things we'll go on to describe in the rest of this article. These might be things like:
The age and condition of vehicles
The proximity of work to foliage
Wind direction and speed
Is debris clearing required?
2. Check weather conditions
A dry day with high temperatures may be inescapable, but there are other things you can check in terms of weather before you decide to proceed with work for the day.
If there is a high wind, for example, this creates a perfect breeding ground for fast fire spread.
You may also want to monitor the humidity of the air. If you need help with how to do this, a wildfire sensor can help.
3. Keep vehicles off dry grass where possible
This is most applicable to those who have to work within wooded areas. Park rangers, utility companies, and forestry organizations are most likely to need to bring in vehicles for off-roading to carry equipment, remove logs or find their way around vast land areas.
These land users should pay close attention to where they are leaving their vehicles, particularly after a weather check has been conducted. If conditions appear to show that a wildfire might be possible, park away from dry grass. Your exhaust can reach temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees or higher, so they're the perfect catalyst for fire on a hot, dry, and windy day.
4. Train staff to spot the early warning signs of a wildfire
If your staff training doesn't incorporate wildfire prevention methods, start to include points on how to spot the early signs of a wildfire. This is the smoldering stage of a fire, and detecting unattended fires at this stage can be pivotal to wildfire prevention. Dry, hot, windy conditions and lots of dry vegetation available as fuel are all risk factors, while smoking foliage and the smell of smoke are all signs of a wildfire nearby.
The best way to ensure early forest fire detection is to use an ultra-early detection system with alerts and data.
5. Train staff how to carefully put out a wildfire at smolder stage
The smolder stage of a wildfire is before it catches and starts to spread. It is not recommended that non-specialist or untrained staff try to tackle a growing fire or one that has already begun to blaze.
Ask all staff to carry a fire extinguisher. If the fire is still at a smolder phase, it may be suppressed by throwing damp earth or buckets of water onto the area. We suggest employing a professional to conduct the training, like someone from your local fire department or forestry organization.
6. Maintain equipment and machinery
Old machinery may cause wildfires by creating sparks through its exhaust. This is something that the driver may only be aware of once it's far too late. By running checks ahead of use, you will reduce the risk.
Tires, bearings, axles, and anything else that could cause a spark should also be looked at before the vehicle is taken into a wooded area or close to dry grass or vegetation. This doesn't just apply to the vehicle itself but may also mean checking any trailers and safety chains used.
7. Burning debris
If you need to burn debris, make sure it’s not windy and plan to do it in a suitable area. Ideally, the area should avoid other wildfire risks like dry grass or wooded areas.
After the debris has been burned, ensure it's cleared away properly and wash away ashes. Someone should completely extinguish the area before you leave it unattended, and the ground should be completely cold after you've removed any ashes. This may be time-consuming, but if weather conditions are risky, it's vital to take all possible preventative measures.
8 Plan for the future
The best forest fire prevention is often in future planning, and the above steps should all contribute. Training, maintenance, and risk assessments are all useful wildfire prevention techniques you should build into your business model. For additional peace of mind, a wildfire detection service can help to spot fires at smolder stages and prevent forest fires from spreading and causing insurmountable costs to your organization.
While some fire detection services use cameras to detect smoke above the forest canopy, this stage may already be too late. Instead, look for wildfire detection that can measure the atmosphere in the wooded area or dry land, is low maintenance, and will alert your team at the first signs of a smolder.
Solar-powered sensors from Dryad Networks can detect forest fires within the first 60 minutes. They monitor the microclimate, measuring temperature, humidity, and air pressure.
Get in touch with us to hear more about how we can support you with forest fire prevention.