Wildfires are a
growing natural hazard in most regions of the United States, posing a threat to
life and property, particularly where native ecosystems meet developed
areas.Four out of every five wildfires are caused by people.
fire is a natural (and often beneficial) process, fire suppression can lead to
more severe fires due to the buildup of vegetation, which creates more fuel.
In addition, the
secondary effects of wildfires, including erosion, landslides, introduction of
invasive species, and changes in water quality, are often more disastrous than
the fire itself.
Elements of Fire
The word "fire"
refers to the natural phenomenon that occurs whenever a combustible fuel comes
into contact with oxygen at an extremely high temperature. Fire is the byproduct
of a chemical reaction in which fuel stored in a combustible fuel is converted
to a gas. A fire's flame refers to the visual indication of light that occurs
once the gas is heated, and is evidence that a fire has taken place.
The Fire Triangle
The Fire Triangle
was developed by natural scientists as a simple way of understanding the factors
of fire. Each side of the triangle represents one of the three ingredients of
fire – oxygen, heat, and fuel – demonstrating the interdependence of these
ingredients in creating and sustaining fire. Remove any of these three factors
from the triangle, and a fire will die.
The interaction of
the three equal sides of the fire triangle: heat, fuel and oxygen, are required
for the creation and maintenance of any fire. When there is not enough heat
generated to sustain the process, when the fuel is exhausted, removed, or
isolated, or when oxygen supply is limited, then a side of the triangle is
broken and the fire is suppressed.
Fire is Nature's
Housekeeper Since the dawn of time, fires have burned regularly, consuming
vegetation, accumulations of insects and diseases, and triggering a rebirth of
forests. Without periodic fire, plants and animals requiring nutrients and
vegetation from other parts of the cycle disappear. Fire, in places where it is
a crucial part of the ecosystem, promotes vegetative and wildlife diversity,
helps maintain wilderness and wildland areas, and eliminates the heavy fuel
accumulations which can ultimately lead to catastrophic wildfire. Many plants
have evolved adaptations that protect them as a species against the effects of
wildland fire, and some are even strengthened by it. Nearly every ecosystem in
the country has some kind of fire dependent plant or tree.
Prescribed Fires are Good Fires
As one of the most
important natural agents of change, fire plays a vital role in maintaining
healthy ecosystems. Prescribed fire reintroduces the beneficial effects of
fire into an ecosystem, producing the kinds of vegetation and landscapes
we want, and reducing the hazard of catastrophic wildfire caused by
excessive fuel buildup.
Wildfires are Bad Fires
destroy wilderness, property, and lives. As more homes are built in and
around forested areas, and as more people take to our country's wildland
areas, wildfires are also on the rise. Through discarded smoking products,
sparks from equipment in operation, arced powerlines, campfires, arson,
debris burning and other careless means, wildfires are often ignited, and
its fires such as these – unplanned, uncontrolled and unnecessary – that
could be most easily prevented.
Don't park your vehicle on dry grass.
If off-road vehicle use is allowed, internal combustion equipment requires a
Know your county's outdoor burning regulations. Unlawful trash burning is a
At the first sign of a wildfire, leave area immediately by established
trails or roads. Contact a Ranger as soon as possible. If escape route is
blocked, go to the nearest lake or stream.
Leave campsite as natural as possible, traveling on trails and other durable
Inspect your site upon leaving.
Never take burning sticks out of a fire.
Never take any type of fireworks on public lands.
Keep stoves, lanterns and heaters away from combustibles.
Store flammable liquid containers in a safe place.
Never use stoves, lanterns and heaters inside a tent
People start most wildfires
…find out how you can promote and practice wildfire safety.
Contact your local fire
department, health department, or forestry office for information on
Make sure that fire
vehicles can get to your home. Clearly mark all driveway entrances and
display your name and address.
conditions that could cause a wildfire.
Teach children about
fire safety. Keep matches out of their reach.
Post fire emergency
accessibility by large fire vehicles to your property.
Plan several escape
routes away from your home – by car and by foot.
Talk to your neighbors
about wildfire safety. Plan how the neighborhood could work together
after a wildfire. Make a list of your neighbors' skills such as medical
or technical. Consider how you could help neighbors who have special
needs such as elderly or disabled persons. Make plans to take care of
children who may be on their own if parents can't get home.
Before Wildfire Threatens
Design and landscape your
home with wildfire safety in mind. Select materials and plants that can
help contain fire rather than fuel it. Use fire-resistant or
noncombustible materials on the roof and exterior structure of the
dwelling, or treat wood or combustible material used in roofs, siding,
decking, or trim with fire-retardant chemicals evaluated by a nationally
recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Plant
fire-resistant shrubs and trees. For example, hardwood trees are less
flammable than pine, evergreen, eucalyptus or fir trees.
Your best resource for
proper planning is
which has outstanding information used daily by residents, property
owners, fire departments, community planners, builders, public policy
officials, water authorities, architects and others to assure safety from
fire – it really works. Firewise workshops are offered for free all across
the Nation in communities large and small and free Firewise materials can
be obtained easily by anyone interested.
Create a 30- to 100-foot
safety zone around your home
Within this area, you can
take steps to reduce potential exposure to flames and radiant heat. Homes
built in pine forests should have a minimum safety zone of 100 feet. If
your home sits on a steep slope, standard protective measures may not
suffice. Contact your local fire department or forestry office for
Rake leaves, dead limbs
and twigs. Clear all flammable vegetation.
Remove leaves and
rubbish from under structures.
Thin a 15-foot space
between tree crowns, and remove limbs within 15 feet of the ground.
Remove dead branches
that extend over the roof.
Prune tree branches and
shrubs within 15 feet of a stovepipe or chimney outlet.
Ask the power company to
clear branches from power lines.
Remove vines from the
walls of the home.
Mow grass regularly.
Clear a 10-foot area
around propane tanks and the barbecue. Place a screen over the grill –
use nonflammable material with mesh no coarser than one-quarter inch.
Regularly dispose of
newspapers and rubbish at an approved site. Follow local burning
Place stove, fireplace
and grill ashes in a metal bucket, soak in water for 2 days; then bury
the cold ashes in mineral soil.
Store gasoline, oily
rags and other flammable materials in approved safety cans. Place cans
in a safe location away from the base of buildings.
Stack firewood at least
100 feet away and uphill from your home. Clear combustible material
within 20 feet. Use only wood-burning devices evaluated by a nationally
recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
Review your homeowner's
insurance policy and also prepare/update a list of your home's contents.
Protect your home
Regularly clean roof and
Inspect chimneys at
least twice a year. Clean them at least once a year. Keep the dampers in
good working order. Equip chimneys and stovepipes with a spark arrester
that meets the requirements of National Fire Protection Association
Standard 211. (Contact your local fire department for exact
Use 1/8-inch mesh screen
beneath porches, decks, floor areas, and the home itself. Also, screen
openings to floors, roof and attic.
Install a dual-sensor
smoke alarm on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms; test
monthly and change the batteries at least once each year.
Teach each family member
how to use a fire extinguisher (ABC type) and show them where it's kept.
Keep handy household
items that can be used as fire tools: a rake, axe, handsaw or chain saw,
bucket and shovel.
Keep a ladder that will
reach the roof.
protective shutters or heavy fire-resistant drapes.
Plan your water needs
Identify and maintain an
adequate outside water source such as a small pond, cistern, well,
swimming pool, or hydrant.
Have a garden hose that
is long enough to reach any area of the home and other structures on the
exterior water outlets on at least two sides of the home and near other
structures on the property. Install additional outlets at least 50 feet
from the home.
Consider obtaining a
portable gasoline powered pump in case electrical power is cut off.
When Wildfire Threatens
If you are warned that a
wildfire is threatening your area, listen to your battery-operated radio
for reports and evacuation information. Follow the instructions of local
Back your car into the
garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape. Shut
doors and roll up windows. Leave the key in the ignition. Close garage
windows and doors, but leave them unlocked. Disconnect automatic garage
Confine pets to one
room. Make plans to care for your pets in case you must evacuate.
housing at a friend or relative's home outside the threatened area.
If advised to evacuate, do
Wear protective clothing
– sturdy shoes, cotton or woolen clothing, long pants, a long-sleeved
shirt, gloves, and a handkerchief to protect your face.
Take your Disaster
Lock your home.
Tell someone when you
left and where you are going.
Choose a route away from
fire hazards. Watch for changes in the speed and direction of fire and
If you're sure you have
time, take steps to protect your home
Close windows, vents,
doors, blinds, or noncombustible window coverings and heavy drapes.
Remove lightweight curtains.
Shut off all utilities
if possible, including bottled gas.
Open fireplace damper.
Close fireplace screens.
Move flammable furniture
into the center of the home away from windows and sliding glass doors.
Turn on a light in each
room to increase the visibility of your home in heavy smoke.
Seal attic and ground
vents with precut noncombustible coverings.
Turn off propane tanks.
Place combustible patio
Connect the garden hose
to outside taps.
Set up a portable
Place lawn sprinklers on
the roof and near aboveground fuel tanks. Wetting the roof may help if
it is shake-shingled.
Wet or remove shrubs
within 15 feet of the home.
Gather fire tools.
When wildfire threatens,
you won't have time to shop or search for supplies. Assemble a Disaster
Supplies Kit with items you may need if advised to evacuate. Store these
supplies in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers such as backpacks, duffle
bags, or trash containers.
A three-day supply of
water (one gallon per person per day) and food that won't spoil.
One change of clothing
and footwear per person and one blanket or sleeping bag per person.
A first aid kit that
includes your family's prescription medications.
including a battery-powered radio, flashlight, and plenty of extra
An extra set of car keys
and a credit card, cash, or traveler's checks.
Special items for
infant, elderly, or disabled family members.
An extra pair of
Keep important family
documents in a waterproof container. Assemble a smaller version of your
kit to keep in the trunk of your car.
Create a Family Disaster
Wildfire and other types of
disasters – hurricane, flood, tornado, earthquake, hazardous materials
spill, winter storm – can strike quickly and without warning. You can cope
with disaster by preparing in advance and working together. Meet with your
family to create a disaster plan. To get started…
Contact your local
Emergency Management Agency or your local American Red Cross chapter
Find out about the
hazards in your community.
Ask how you would be
Find out how to prepare
for each type of disaster.
Meet with your family
Discuss the types of
disasters that could occur.
Explain how to prepare
and respond to each type of disaster.
Discuss where to go and
what to bring if advised to evacuate.
Practice what you have
Plan how your family will
stay in contact if separated by disaster
Pick two meeting places:
a place a safe
distance from your home in case of a home fire.
a place outside your
neighborhood in case you can't return home.
Choose an out-of-state
friend as a "check-in contact" for everyone to call.
Complete these steps
Post emergency telephone
numbers by every phone.
Show responsible family
members how and when to shut off water, gas, and electricity at main
Contact your local fire
department to learn about home fire hazards.
Learn first aid and CPR.
Contact your local American Red Cross chapter for information and
ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT WILDFIRES
Credit: USGS, CDC, Smokey Bear, US
Forest Service,NASA, National Geographic
Data compiled from The
British Antarctic Study, NASA, Environment Canada, UNEP, EPA and
other sources as stated and credited Researched by Charles
Welch-Updated daily This Website is a project of the The Ozooe Hole