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Forestry

Wildfire Prevention: How To Prevent Forest Fires

09.07.2021
burning forest

The importance of wildfire prevention is best illustrated with overwhelming statistics. According to the US Forest Service, nearly 7.5 million acres are lost to wildfires across the United States yearly, with a risk of damage to every state. Sadly, the anthropogenic factor is by far the main culprit of the catastrophic losses, which demands various wildfire prevention strategies.

Among the numerous strategies of how to prevent wildfires from spreading, the most effective one is never to let it happen. Forest fire prevention and control are possible with effective agricultural and forest management plans, alongside public awareness, responsibility, and concern.

Weather Conditions: Posed Danger & Wildfire Prevention

Certain weather causes forest fires by itself, but human activities aggravate the situation even more. For example, typical natural forces setting forests on fire are as follows:

  • high temperatures raise the flammability of dry grass, leaves, trunks, or pine tar;
  • strong winds speed up wildfire spreading;
  • climate change and droughts intensify and prolong forest fire seasons, particularly, in the Amazon basin;
  • lightning provokes ignition in dry forest trees.
starting wildfire in dry weather

Therefore, in wildfire prevention, it is crucial to know wildfire hazards due to natural factors. When planning regular operations and thinking of how to prevent a wildfire from happening, foresters should consider current and upcoming weather conditions and their danger to forests.

When it is too hot or windy, sparkles from the working equipment or vehicles may ignite the dry grass or leaves and leap to large territories due to winds, causing wildfires. The problem with wildfires is that it is not always possible to spot them, understand the scope, and take actions otherwise than with remote sensing.

Being aware of the current and upcoming forest fire hazards or detecting smoke on time is always essential in preventing wildfires.

Preventing Wildfires Hazard From Vehicles

Driving off-road in nature, within the proximity of dry crop residue and forests, demands extreme caution in terms of wildfire prevention. Exhaust temperature is often high enough to set dry grass or straw on fire, with potential danger to nearby forests. In fact, exhausts can be as hot as 1200 degrees F. A mere sparkle from the overheated engine, poorly greased bearings, dragging safety chains, or worn-out tires can lead to wildfires, too. Thus, to prevent wildfires, it is essential to:

  • undertake technical checkups regularly;
  • have properly functioning spark arrestors;
  • never park near dry grass, especially, close to forests;
  • have a shovel and a fire-extinguisher;
  • carry a bucket or anything suitable to fill with water;
  • store a reservoir with water or sand;

Never apply water to extinguish a fire caused by flammable liquids but use sand instead.

Wildfire Danger From Equipment And Sparks & Prevention Tactics

Equipment and machinery may present a certain wildfire danger, too. First, working with spark-producing tools must be avoided near dry vegetation. Second, hot equipment may be a source of ignition. Third, refueling heated engines is never allowed since it leads to combustion. Taking these risks into consideration, it is necessary to develop wildfire prevention techniques. This will ensure safety when working with potentially dangerous tools.

How to prevent wildfires in this case? Simple yet vitally important measures will do a lot of good, which includes:

  • cooling down the engine before refueling;
  • clearing up the working place from any flammables 10 to 25 feet around;
  • avoiding the use of heating and spark-producing equipment near dried-up vegetation;
  • restraining from working with potentially dangerous equipment in dry and windy weather;
  • providing fire-extinguishing equipment for wildfire prevention concerns.
burning field close to forest

Preventing Wildfires Due To Agricultural Activities

Improperly planned agricultural operations also contribute to wildfires statistics if people ignore wildfire prevention tips, don’t take safety measures, and don’t consider the weather specifics. The main contributors are slash-and-burn practices, debris burning on the agricultural lands and households close to forests, and the use of flammable liquids.

Managing large burning territories is next to impossible, which leads to severe deforestation due to wildfires. Therefore, any prescribed burnings should always have thorough forest management plans to prevent fire.

Slash-And-Burn

Slash-and-burn practices are used for agricultural land expansion by cutting forests and burning dried vegetation. The ashes provide nutrients boosting soil fertility. However, this method has significant disadvantages regarding forest fire prevention, too. It not only deprives rare biodiversity species of their habitat but often goes out of control, setting even unintended territories on fire. Thus, it is essential to control a forest fire to prevent worse fires.

Under certain conditions, the wind may spread a wildfire to dozens of miles away from the source of ignition. That’s why if a field is far away from forest, it does not mean that the fire cannot reach. Unfavourable conditions may make the situation devastating.

Debris Burning

It is typical for some farms and especially households to burn leaves, crop residues, and other agricultural wastes. Such an approach is faster and more convenient than taking them away. Yet, in close proximity to forests, it presents certain wildfire risks and harms the environment, not to mention that it is illegal in many countries and the US states.

In this regard, for wildfire prevention reasons, it is ultimately important to obey the applicable laws and restrictions. People must never burn debris under dangerous weather conditions because the fire may spread to forests nearby, causing severe wildfires.

Besides, the ashes should be properly extinguished with water and stirring for forest fire prevention concerns as glowing remnants inside may result in fire even after several weeks. When burning wastes, it is prohibited to throw questionable materials into the fire (e.g., plastic, oil- or petrol-soaked fabrics, etc.) since they may lead to unexpected explosions and produce poisonous fumes.

burning debris

Use Of Flammable Liquids

Solvents, fuel, degreasers, and other flammables are indispensable on any farm but put it at high risk of inflammation, also leading to wildfires. For this reason, it is vital to follow all storage and precaution guidelines. In particular, ways to prevent wildfires with flammable substances comprise:

  • keeping out of the reach of children and ignition sources;
  • storing in a designated place, away from living houses and separately from drinks and food;
  • labeling fuel reservoirs and regular checking them for leaks and breaks;
  • avoiding exposition to high temperatures and sun rays to prevent flashing;
  • restraining from smoking when refueling, being in the storage areas, and otherwise handling flammable liquids;
  • controlling electrical lines for short-circuit and other safety issues;
  • following instructions for use.
localised forest fire

Wildfire Prevention With EOS Forest Monitoring

The newly-released EOSDA product Forest Monitoring can be helpful as a part of a wildfire prevention plan as well as forest monitoring to understand forest productivity, address tree diseases, identify deforestation trends (palm oil deforestation in particular), etc.

The helpful solutions to prevent wildfires include:

  • weather analytics,
  • monitoring thermal anomalies,
  • monitoring water stress and temperature rises.

Weather Monitoring And Analytics

Forest Monitoring from EOSDA facilitates forest management for forest fire prevention since the software not only allows checking forest productivity but provides accurate current weather data, 14-day forecasts, and historical weather analytics. In particular, with wildfire prevention in mind, the users of EOSDA Forest Monitoring can minimize forest management activities or re-schedule them for a safer time if the risk of ignition is too high.

weather
A 14-day weather forecast on Forest Monitoring for oak AOI.

Thermal Anomalies Monitoring

Forest Monitoring also helps detect thermal anomalies on the selected AOI and nearby areas. In forest management to prevent wildfires, detecting temperature rises on the forest surface is essential because timely identification of the fire source allows mitigating losses.

thermal
Thermal anomalies map on Forest Monitoring.

Even though thermal anomalies do not always mean a wildfire, it is important to scout them to prevent large-scale forest fires. Alarm and forest fire prevention systems are extremely useful in this case, and automatic alerts on the Forest Monitoring app simplify AOI observation. Once any thermal anomalies are detected, users get alerts about them and can check these stands for potential danger, which is critical for wildfires prevention.

Water Stress And Temperature Trends Monitoring

General monitoring of water stress in the selected AOI and its separate stands is an additional beneficial practice to prevent wildfire. The higher water stress is, the drier is the territory correspondingly, meaning the surface grass and leaves are drier, too. When water stress combines with long-lasting temperature rises, it signals a high risk of forest fires. Thus, Forest Monitoring allows tracking water stress trends alongside temperature trends.

water
Water stress for the oak AOI on Forest Monitoring.

Zones with high water stress do not always signal a forest fire threat. Specifically, if there is active deforestation or clearcutting within your AOI, such territory will have high water stress but be not fire-prone.

The effects of forest fire prevention are apparent. The delivered data is essential not only for current AOIs in forest monitoring but also for long-term forest management. With the aforementioned solutions to prevent wildfires, the software users can understand the forest fire probability season by season, provided they can analyze historical air temperature and water stress available on Forest Monitoring.

Caution Notes For Man-Caused Wildfires

Only 16% of the US wildfires occur due to natural forces like lightning, and the striking 84% are attributed to humans. The most common causes of forest fires include debris burning (29%), equipment and machinery use (11%), and campfires (5%). The list continues with lit cigarettes, fireworks (especially on July 4th), etc. Furthermore, humans are to blame for the fire season prolongation: wildfires’ duration has extended more than thrice.

What can people do to prevent accidental fire in a forest? First and foremost, when handling a fire or burning objects, it is important to take preventive measures of forest fire and know how to act in the case of an emergency. Below, there are listed the most common man-caused forest fires and notes to prevent them.

unattended campfire in the forest

Don’t Leave Smoldering Campfires!

How can wildfires be prevented when having a picnic in the forest with bonfires? Fire-cooked food in the forest tastes delicious, but it may be a good idea only until the fire escapes and causes a lot of trouble. For this reason, it is always necessary to follow forest fire prevention tips.

  • Make campfires only in the permitted areas; never do it when it is prohibited.
  • Use fire pits in the territories protected by the Department of Natural Resources.
  • Prepare a bucket of water and a shovel to extinguish the bonfire.
  • Always put any fire out, especially in forests, check the ashes inside, and make sure the fire is completely cold before leaving.
  • Report unattended fires to the bodies of forest fire prevention and control.
  • Don’t start bonfires when the weather is windy.
  • Ridge campfire sites with rocks.
  • Avoid making forest bonfires large.

Don’t Throw Away Lit Cigarettes!

How to prevent a wildfire when smoking? Lit cigarettes or matches can be the source of dry grass ignition. So, never throw them away when they are still burning, especially out of the car window. Use an ashtray instead and preferably put out the cigarette butts and matches in a water-filled can. Smoking and flickering items often lead to wildfires, especially under extremely dry weather conditions.

many fireworks close to forest

Take Wildfire Prevention Measures With Fireworks!

What are wildfire precaution requirements when entertaining with fireworks?

  • Don’t crack fireworks in forests.
  • Keep fireworks, lighters, and matches out of the reach of children.
  • Don’t start fireworks when it is windy.
  • Water the grass around.
  • Have a fire extinguisher, water reservoir, and a shovel ready to put the inflammation out.

Follow Forest Fire Prevention Tactics When Burning Rubbish!

What are wildfire prevention methods for agricultural and household wastes?

  • Avoid burning wastes around dry grass.
  • Don’t start a fire on a windy day.
  • Use a can or fire pit.
  • Never burn household wastes when any regulations of wildfire prevention policy prohibit it.
  • Don’t throw explosives and combustibles into the fire.
  • Make batches and piles small because they are easier to control.
  • Consider composting instead of burning.
  • Remove all flammable materials around the fire site.
working forester with an electric saw

Prevent Forest Fires That Can Ignite From Tools And Vehicles!

What are forest fire prevention methods when dealing with tools and vehicles?

  • Don’t refuel a car when the engine is hot.
  • Don’t park near dry vegetation.
  • Don’t operate sparkling tools near dry grass.
  • Don’t use such equipment when the weather is windy and dry.
  • Make sure exhaust spark arresters function properly.
  • Always have a fire extinguisher ready.

Carelessness with fire in forests and nearby territories brings the trouble of wildfires. In fact, the US Forest Service estimated about 6.7 thousand fires with more than 1.6 million acres as the 5-year average in 2012-2016.

Fire prevention in forests is ultimately important as it greatly helps in the timely detection of hot spots, localization of ignition sources, and mitigating losses due to wildfires. In this regard, satellite forest monitoring and data analytics, and the EOS Forest Monitoring software in particular, prove useful as a forest fire prevention new tech.