In recent years, it has been hard to miss seeing coverage of wildfires on the news. The saddest thing, aside from the loss of life and property, is that a large proportion of wildfires could have been prevented with a few simple measures. We will discuss what causes wildfires, wildfire prevention, and steps we can all take to reduce the risk.
When is Wildfire Season?
Traditionally wildfire season runs through the drier periods of the year. It is widely acknowledged that June through until September presents the greatest risk. However, the season can vary based on external factors.
A particularly dry spring can bring the season forward. A late fall, along with an absence of wetter weather, can delay the period when it could be said to be ‘safe’. Looking at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, you can clearly see that there were wildfire events all the way into December!
What Causes Wildfires?
There are, of course, natural causes of wildfires. Thunderstorms are a feature of blisteringly hot summers, and lightning can ignite tinder-dry areas quite easily. Obviously, we can’t change the weather…
But according to the Insurance Information Institute, over 90% of wildfires are started by people. This can be intentional (sadly), but the causes are often accidental, brought about by a lack of knowledge.
Here are some key causes of wildfires:
- Discarded Cigarettes
- Electrical equipment
- Engine sparks
- Unattended fires
With global temperatures and climate change in flux, a shift in the seasons, and hotter days, the presence of fuel, such as scrub, brush, and dry kindling, is at an all-time high. This means that fire can spread much more easily.
How to Prevent Wildfires?
With wildfire prevention, you must understand just how easily and quickly they can start.
The causes are often small.
Want an example? The Mendocino Complex fire is one of the largest recorded in history and was started by a rancher driving a metal stake into the ground, creating a small spark.
Looking at some of the causes above, let’s address some ways to prevent wildfires.
Cigarettes account for an average of 47 wildfires each year in the State of California. There is no doubt that these could have all have been easily avoided.
The easiest way to prevent these is not to smoke in the first place, especially in areas where there is a high risk. However, if you must ‘light up’, consider pouring water on your finished cigarette. Don’t attempt to extinguish it by grinding it under your heel, especially in drier outdoor areas.
Barbecues and Campfires
As the weather warms, it is natural to want to flock to outdoor spaces. Outdoor fires have always presented a significant risk.
Suppose you are going to have a barbecue or make a campfire. In that case, it is important that you only do it in designated areas deemed safe. Ensure that the fire is held within a suitable container. It is not supported or resting on anything that could ignite.
Consider the conditions. High winds and open fires don’t tend to mix well.
Once you have finished using the fire, ensure that it is thoroughly extinguished. Water is normally a readily available option, but you could also consider using something much more substantial that will ensure the fire is robbed of both heat and oxygen.
This is an area that is often overlooked and is massive in scope. Here are some things that you may not have considered that can be a prime cause of wildfires:
- Powerlines with overhanging trees
- Incorrectly wired electrical items
- High energy lamps or lights
And many more…
If anything on this list surprises you, or you hadn’t considered it, now, while the weather is slightly cooler, it may be the time to address it.
Suppose you aren’t sure as to whether something could present a significant fire risk. In that case, there are many professional agencies that are experts in assessing and preventing fires of all sizes.
Around your Home and Business
Your property, your rules, right?
Not quite. In California, burning debris can only be done on certain days. What you burn is also restricted.
Here are a few more top tips to avoid causing and spreading fires on your own property:
- Ensure you have a burn permit
- Only burn small piles of debris at a time (the recommendation is no greater than 4×4 feet)
- Only burn in an area clear of scrub and dry brush.
- Ensure you have a supply of water and a shovel
- Never leave a fire unattended (even for short periods)
- Pay careful attention to the weather
With the risk of wildfires and the wildfire season gradually getting longer, protecting your home from a fire has never been more relevant.
If the unthinkable happens, and a fire does break out, then having a means to quickly and easily suppress and extinguish a fire should be high on your list of priorities. This can often be made into an automated process.
This could be combined with a reliable alarm system, which can be connected directly to the nearest fire department, ensuring that if a fire does begin to get out of hand, that help will be on the way in the quickest possible time.
What to Do if You Suspect a Wildfire Risk
For your home or business, there are several steps you can take to reduce and mitigate your risk.
If you have noticed something that you think presents an immediate ignition source for a wildfire, the first thing you should do is report it to your nearest fire service. Most of the examples of wildfires given above started from something very small, so the risk doesn’t have to be huge for you to report it.
Planning ahead is another great way to prevent the risk of wildfire. Look at areas that might be risky. You can either deal with them before they become an issue. Or, if they are unavoidable, at least ensure you have the means to quickly extinguish and negate a fire, should it start.
If you need advice on ways to reduce fire risk in your home and business, Fraker Fire Protection Inc can provide valuable suggestions and strategies to ensure that you can stay safe.