How a California Heat Wave Elevates Fire Risk

Posted On: July 7th, 2021

With some of the driest summers on record and an increase in the time traditionally considered ‘wildfire season’, it has never been more important to be aware of fire risks. Knowing how they occur and how to protect yourself is crucial. Today we will look at why heatwave conditions elevate fire risk and what you can do to stay safe.


Can a California Heat Wave Cause Wildfires?

The most obvious fire risk also happens to be the largest.

We are talking about wildfires.

A reduction in rain and an increase in temperature conditions become optimal for uncontrollable wildfires to break out. Wildfires are easily spread as the ground, and surrounding foliage becomes tinder dry.

Being far away from a source is no guarantee of safety either. Wildfires can spread phenomenally fast, reaching speeds of up to 14 miles per hour! To put that in terms of distance, a fire left burning for 24 hours could potentially cover a distance of over 330 miles!


How Do Wildfires Start?

There are many reasons why wildfires start. While there are natural causes such as lightning strikes, more often than not, wildfires have a human cause. The reasons could be any one of the following:

  • Carelessly discarded cigarettes
  • Illegal burning
  • Barbecues
  • Arson
  • Sparks from machinery or electrics
  • And many more…


How a California Heat Wave Elevates Fire Risk?

With California experiencing a record in the lack of rainfall, it should be obvious that dry conditions represent a significant risk.

It is important to remember that even on a smaller scale, heatwaves present a high fire risk. The things that make wildfires more likely also exist around your property. Heatwaves cause an increase in dry vegetation surrounding your property. This can lead to instances where a small ignition source will have an effect where previously it did not.

Combined with this is the fact that in drier conditions, fire can spread much more rapidly. Sparks from a blaze can lead to a ‘chain reaction’ effect that grows in magnitude and quickly ensures that even a smaller fire becomes a large blaze.

Radiated heat from a larger fire is greater. Again this has a knock-on effect.


Consider Power Outages | Why Do They Happen?

Another area that it really pays to be aware of during a California heat wave is power outages. Aside from making life very uncomfortable, this can also present a significant fire risk.

Why do power outages happen in heatwaves? Well, allow us to explain…

First and foremost, people, understandably, use air conditioning in extremely hot conditions. While you might not realize, millions of people running aircon simultaneously place a significant demand on power stations.

It isn’t just about demand either. During hot conditions, power lines are much less efficient at carrying electricity. Further to this, as the lines heat up, they can ‘sag’ and, in some instances touch the ground. If this happens, then the line stops carrying electricity as it is ‘earthed’. It also presents another problem… This can also act as a source of ignition.

What’s the risk with a power outage? Probably more than you’d think. Here are some reasons why they are dangerous, especially when a fire is involved:

  • Alarm Systems Can Lose Power

How is your fire alarm system powered? Do you know? If not, maybe it is time to check or consult a professional fire protection service. Those systems only supplied by mains electricity will not work if there is a power outage.

In short. If it isn’t powered, you aren’t protected.

  • No Electricity | No Communication

While you may always have a mobile phone to hand, the antennas that transmit the signals are powered by mains electricity, as is your landline. In a power outage, you may lose these methods of communication completely. This isn’t good if a fire breaks out and you need to contact the emergency services.

  • Water Pumping

While most hose and sprinkler systems rely on water pressure alone, some have an electric pump. If there’s no power, can water be pumped to extinguish a fire?

  • Lighting and Escape

This is one crucial element when dealing with fires. You ideally need to be able to see and make an escape if the situation becomes unmanageable. Lighting is something that makes egress from a dangerous situation much easier.

Is your lighting backed up by an emergency system that is independent of mains electricity? If not, then there are solutions available, but now would be the time to check.


How Can I Protect My Property During Heat Wave Conditions?

The good news is that you can protect your property. If you are uncertain about what you can do, Fraker Fire offers consultations and advice for homes and businesses.

Here are some tips to make fire less of a risk during heatwaves:

  • Prepare for Wildfire Season Early

It is best practice to divide your property into ‘risk zones’. The closer to your property, the greater the action you need to take.

Remove any scrub and foliage that is dry. Keeping the area surrounding your home clear is key. It is also worth moving any flammable objects away from your home.

If you want to take a risk assessment, here is an excellent resource. You can find a dedicated guide to protecting yourself against wildfire here.

  • Make and Practice an Escape Plan

Knowing when and how to get out is a vital step to protecting yourself. A fire escape plan will allow you to quickly and easily leave if a fire becomes out of control.

  • Ensure You are Covered During a Power Cut

You mustn’t rely on having mains electricity to deal with, or escape, a fire. Utilizing things that don’t rely on external power, such as fire extinguishers and independently powered alarm systems, is a great first step.



With heatwaves dominating the news, there has never been a greater risk of fire. Knowing how to manage that risk is vital. Fraker Fire can offer support and guidance, including advice on the most effective systems to protect your home or business.

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