What is a Wildfire, and How Can You Get Prepared to Fight it

What is a Wildfire, and How Can You Get Prepared to Fight it
Wildfire | Photo file:

Wildfires have been more frequently occurring in recent years. Approximately 7.4 million acres are affected by 61,289 incidents on average each year in the United States, and experts predict that this number will rise in 2023 and beyond. This is a direct outcome of climate change and the drier conditions it has brought about, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and other specialists. Naturally, not every fire is a wildfire.

What is wildfire?

Any unplanned, uncontrolled, unpredictable fire in a natural setting with flammable vegetation is referred to as a wildfire. It may also go by the name’s wildfire, forest fire, bush fire, or rural fire. And although your recollections of Smokey the Bear as a child may have you envision them rampaging through a forest, they can occur anyplace.

But prescribed fires, which are started on purpose and with planning, shouldn't be mistaken for wildfires. Federal or state land managers may start and manage prescribed burns with the aim of restoring a region's natural balance in ecosystems that depend on fire. Prescribed fire and wildfire are both collectively referred to as "wildland fires" in this regard.

Any kind of landscape can experience a wildfire. Because dry grasses flash burn and spread fire quickly over a wide area, grassland wildfires can be the most destructive.

What causes a wildfire?

Basically, anything that sparks cause a wildfire. And while some wildfires are started on purpose, most of them are unintentional. Campfires, dangerous chimneys, loose trailer chains sparking as they hit the road, overheated cars pulling into grass fields, people mowing their fields on a hot, dry day, and many more things can cause ignitions. Mother Nature can also contribute since lightning strikes and wind-driven power line failures both have the potential to cause uncontrollable fires.

How can a fire become a wildfire, though? Temperature, humidity, and the absence of moisture in fuels including trees, shrubs, grasses, and forest detritus must all be in harmony for wildfires to occur. When the vegetation is dry, the relative humidity is below 20%, the temperature is between 50 and 70 degrees, and the wind speed is greater than 15 to 20 miles per hour, wildfires are typically more dangerous.

Since our planet's warming results in drier circumstances, which create the ideal conditions for a wildfire, climate change is another major component. Particularly in locations that are drier than typical, wildfires are a possibility.

Are wildfires preventable?

No, and yes. The National Park Service estimates that humans are to blame for up to 85% of wildfires in the United States. People need to be mindful of how their behavior, such as leaving a campfire unattended or carelessly discarding a cigarette, could ignite a fire. The first stage is awareness, as it is with so many other things. However, some human factors, including the misuse or breakdown of equipment, are beyond our control. Then there are the natural-based, non-human factors. In either case, the correct circumstances make it simple for a fire to spread quickly.

Because of this, according to experts, mitigation should be the primary goal of wildfire prevention. Despite the fact that it's necessary to spread knowledge and limit them, ignitions cannot really be stopped. Although wildfires can't completely be stopped, it is possible to lessen their extent and destructiveness.

How to prepare for a wildfire

Build defensive areas, and strengthen your house

A buffer between your home and the grass, trees, and bushes that surround it is known as defensible space. Home hardening, on the other hand, refers to particular construction methods that lessen your home's sensitivity to embers, heat, and fire. That might include eschewing wood frames in favor of nonflammable construction materials like brick, concrete, and stucco.

The average home needs between $10,000 and $20,000 in home-hardening improvements and defensive space work to reduce the risk of wildfires. According to research, these improvements can cut a home's likelihood of being destroyed by a wildfire by as much as 75%.

Make an escape strategy

Particularly if they have children, families should discuss and practice an escape plan long before an emergency arises. In an evacuation scenario, being aware of when to go and having the ability to move quickly are essential. First, decide where the entire family will meet up. Plan your major and backup evacuation routes after that, then prepare your emergency supplies and place them in accessible locations.

Download emergency apps

Because it can already be too late by the time the alert reaches your TV or radio, you shouldn't rely on emergency alert broadcast systems. Local authorities are required to alert this national system. Additionally, communication breakdowns occur frequently and abruptly, as is frequently the case between municipal and federal agencies.

Keep the area surrounding your home free of fire hazards

You need to be concerned about more than just the potential for fire in your home. Remove any fuels, plants, and dangers (zero to five feet) from the immediate vicinity of your home, including wood piles, fuel storage tanks, grills, furniture, and flammable doormats. When trash and embers are blown against wood fences, they can also catch fire, carrying the flames close to your home. Because of this, he advises rebuilding any fence portions within 6 to 10 feet of your home with stone or metal.

And you might wish to remove the plants that are right next to your house. Many of us have herbaceous bushes and bark mulch right next to the house. removing them completely or changing them out for something less combustible, like pebbles, pavers, or short, well-irrigated herbaceous plants.

Rake dead leaves, then dispose of them properly

Dead, dried leaves, pine needles, and dry grass are all very flammable substances. Even if the leaves are already bagged, avoid storing them close to the home or by a woodpile while disposing of them. It's critical to remove these fire threats as soon as possible or to ensure that they are sufficiently far away from your home, any wood piles, or other structures.

Rake in accordance with the town's local leaf-pickup schedule to make sure your bagged-up leaves are removed right away.

Dispose of dead tree limbs

Dead tree limbs are dry, just like bagged or dry leaves, thus they, too, are easily ignited and catch fire. If you have any lying around or hanging from trees, get rid of them right away. When getting rid of dead tree limbs, follow the same strategy. Store them away from the house.

Purchase fire-rated vents

Replacing or covering every vent, including those in the crawl space, attic, and roof, with a Vulcan vent that is fire-rated. Or confine them using a minimum of 1/8-inch wire mesh. Having enclosed eaves prevents heat rising from burning materials below them from being trapped in the eaves and igniting the roof deck from below, protecting weak rafters from wind-blown embers entering the attic space.

Upgrade your exterior with noncombustible siding

Any combustible siding, such as wood, plywood, vinyl, or other plastics, must have a minimum of 6 inches of vertical space from it to the ground. This will prevent your siding from igniting when wildfire embers and other debris are thrown up against a structure.

A non-combustible material such as fiber cement or galvanized metal flashing can be used to replace the lower 6 inches of siding.

Make sure gutters are made of metal

Metal gutters should be used in place of easily inflammable vinyl or plastic gutters. Install metal gutter covers to cut down on wind-blown trash and leaf litter. This will prevent them from igniting and causing embers to spread to your home.

Gutter damage or removal from your home can result from pressure washing, so avoid doing so.

Final Word

Regardless of how much you hope you'll never be affected by a wildfire, knowing this essential information will help you and your house be safe. We’ll get into the details above, but the first thing you should be aware that they can have an impact in a number of different areas. The second thing is they spread fast. Being ready is crucial because of this.