Every year, human actions cause more forest fires than lightning, yet the silver streak is to blame for more acreage destruction. Forest fire prevention is important because the United States suffers a multitude of human-caused blazes on a yearly basis. For instance, in 2006, humans were responsible for a considerable amount of fires in Alaska (254); the Northwest (2,666); Northern California (3,676); Southern California (3,166); the Northern Rockies (2,303); the Southwest (2,511); Western Great Basin (331); the East (14,227); the South (47,175) and the Rocky Mountains (2,968) for a total of 80,220 .
Usually, the typical forest possesses their own fire season, which may start as early as April, peaking in May and June with lingering fires developing during dryer summer months. Often, the worst of the fires passes by the time September arrives. To battle a forest fire, highly trained firefighters are needed to combat not only the fierceness of a rolling fire, but also any contributing natural elements, such as high winds, which may generate a much worse inferno.
Firefighters may fight blazes on the ground, using hand tools, chainsaws, and water pumps to control forest fires. Over the years, battling flames with the use of helicopters; rappelling and parachuting crews; and water tankers have become more common . Today, the latest in satellite monitoring systems have also made predicting fire patterns and devising a game plan much easier.
The Positive and Negative Effects of Forest Fires
According to researchers, not all forest fires are entirely bad and some create a collection of ecological benefits. Some fires are a natural occurrence throughout grasslands and forest ecosystems, as they aim to lessen the build-up of dead and decaying leaves, logs and needles that amass on the forest floor. Fires also open up the forest to allow sunlight in for the cultivation of new growth, seeds, and roots.
Over time, many plants and animals have adapted to the presence of forest fires, such as some pines, which are known to develop a resin coating on their cones that protects seeds from fire . It is actually the heat of the fire that stimulates the cones to burst open and spread seeds. Woodpeckers and other creatures also dine on the bark beetles and other insects that find a home in newly burned trees.
On the other hand, careless human fires remain an intensely destructive force that places natural resources, human and animal lives, plants, and property in danger. Forest fires cause significant environmental, economic, and social damages. The loss of timber, wildlife habitats, and human dwellings can prove quite devastating to overcome. Over the years, there is no denying the great amount of deaths, property damage and destruction, and loss of precious acreage associated with forest fires.
In 1881, Michigan lost more than 250 lives to the Thumb Fire, which destroyed 1,000,000 acres of land. The Great Fire of 1889 in California is the largest fire recorded in state history, destroying 800,000 acres. California was hit once again in 1970, as the Laguna Fire took away 175,425 acres; killed eight people; and demolished 382 homes. The Hinckley Fire of 1894 captured 160,000 acres and killed 418 people. The fire also destroyed 12 towns in its path. Between 400 and 500 people lost their lives in the Cloquet Fire (1918), which spanned the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Forest fires also have the capacity to cause great financial damage, as Florida suffered 2,200 separate fires during the drought season, which was responsible for the burning down of 150 homes, and caused $390 million in lost timber and $133 million in fire suppression costs . New Mexico also suffered considerable fire damage costs, as the state lost 420 homes in Los Alamos to the Cerro Grande Fire, including 10 buildings at Los Alamos National Laboratory, which racked up $1 billion in damages. To date, this is considered the worst fire in the state’s recorded history.
How to Prevent Forest Fire
Human-initiated fires are to blame for a high amount of property damage; loss of wildlife habitat and the lives of humans and animals. Some forest fires are the result of carelessness or improper habits when engaging in outdoor activities. Familiarizing yourself with appropriate forest fire preventive measures not only helps you become a more aware individual when it comes to protecting the safety and natural resources in your region, but also helps you better spread the word:
a) Establish Fire Lookouts:
In the United States, Canada, and other countries across the globe, the use of fire lookouts is still very much a part of forest fire prevention. It is through this method that early detection of forest fires takes place. A fire lookout is a system of setting up personnel, who will man the top of a building or tower in order to report any smoke in the area, which may indicate a wildfire. Usually, fire lookouts are positioned on top of a mountain, where the high elevation provides a good enough view to survey the surrounding terrain . Once smoke or forest fire activity is spotted, various reports are sent out.
b) Detection Services:
Depending on the size of a forest fire-prone region, a variety of detection services are available to prevent the spread of forest fires. Smaller areas benefit from local sensors that detect fires within 150 square feet. Medium-sized areas may use infrared or smoke scanners to detect fires within three acres of land. NASA also assists the detection of forest fires within 30 acres with aero-satellite technology.
c) Equipment Safety:
A large portion of fires in some areas (such as Wisconsin) is caused by equipment and machinery. Malfunctioning parts, constant sparking, electrical weaknesses, and mechanical breakdowns are just some of the factors that aids in equipment-related fires. This is why it is important to perform routine maintenance checks on all machinery and equipment.
d) Monitor Electric Fencing:
Some people are proud owners of an electric fence, which is often used to maintain livestock on farms or keep intruders out. Sometimes, a malfunction in the construction of this type of fence can cause a fire, which possesses the capability to destroy surrounding vegetation and acres of forest. Prevention measures include making sure your fencer is UL approved; the fence wire is away from fire hazards; and the fencer is turner off when not in use.
Drafted by Chongqing Xiuge Intelligent Technology Co., Ltd