The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with North America and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (February 2013) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Wildfire suppression is a range of firefighting tactics used to suppress wildfires. Firefighting efforts in wild land areas require different techniques, equipment, and training from the more familiar structure fire fighting found in populated areas. Working in conjunction with specially designed aerial firefighting aircraft, these wildfire-trained crews suppress flames, construct fire lines, and extinguish flames and areas of heat to protect resources and natural wilderness. Wildfire suppression also addresses the issues of the wildland-urban interface, where populated areas border with wild land areas.
Wildland fire, known in Australia as bush fire, has played a major role in Australia due to arid conditions. Notable fire services tasked with wildfire suppression include NPWS (National Parks and Wildlife Service, NSW), the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, the South Australian Country Fire Service, and the Victorian Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) and the Country Fire Authority.
Canada contains approximately 4,020,000 square miles (10,400,000 km2) of forest land. Seventy-five percent of this is boreal forest, made up primarily of coniferous trees. More than 90 percent of Canadian forest land is publicly owned, and the provincial and territorial governments are responsible for fire-suppression activities. The Federal Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) provides operational fire-control services and links to all provincial and territorial fire agencies.
During a typical year there are over 9,000 forest fires in Canada, burning an average of 2.5 million hectares (ha) or 9,700 square miles (25,000 km2). The number of fires and area burned can vary dramatically from year to year. Average suppression costs are $500 million to $1 billion annually.
In Canada, two-thirds of all forest fires are caused by people, while lightning causes the remaining third. Despite this, lightning fires account for over 85 percent of the area burned in Canada, largely because many of the lightning-caused fires occur in remote, inaccessible areas. Currently about ninety percent of forest fires are fought. Generally fires near communities, industrial infrastructure, and forests with high commercial and recreation value are given high priority for suppression efforts. In remote areas and wilderness parks, fires may be left to burn as part of the natural ecological cycle.
Wildfire suppression in the United States has had a long and varied history. For most of the 20th century, any form of wildland fire, whether it was naturally caused or otherwise, was quickly suppressed for fear of uncontrollable and destructive conflagrations such as the Peshtigo Fire in 1871 and the Great Fire of 1910. In the 1960s, policies governing wildfire suppression changed due to ecological studies that recognized fire as a natural process necessary for new growth. Today, policies advocating complete fire suppression have been exchanged for those who encourage wildland fire use, or the allowing of fire to act as a tool, such as the case with controlled burns. Average suppression costs are $4 billion to $4.5 billion annually.
Protection of human life is first priority for firefighters. Since 1995, when arriving on a scene, a fire crew will establish safety zones and escape routes, verify communication is in place, and designate lookouts (known in the U.S. by the acronym LCES, for lookouts, communications, escape routes, safety zones). This allows the firefighters to engage a fire with options for a retreat should their current situation become unsafe. Although other safety zones should be designated, areas already burned generally provide a safe refuge from fire provided they have cooled sufficiently, are accessible, and have burned enough fuels so as to not reignite. Briefings may be done to inform new fire resources of hazards and other pertinent information.
A great emphasis is placed on safety and preventing entrapment, a situation where escape from the fire is impossible. Prevention of this situation is reinforced with two training protocols, Ten Standard Firefighting Orders and Eighteen Situations That Shout Watch Out, which warn firefighters of potentially dangerous situations, developed in the aftermath of the Mann Gulch fire. As a last resort, many wildland firefighters carry a fire shelter. In this inescapable situation, the shelter will provide limited protection from radiant and convective heat, as well as superheated air. Entrapment within a fire shelter is called a burnover. In Australia, firefighters rarely carry fireshelters (commonly referred to as "Shake 'N' Bake" shelters); rather, training is given to locate natural shelters or use hand tools to create protection; or, in the instance of 'burnover' in a tanker or other fire appliance, 'fire overrun' training is used.
Hazards beyond the fire are posed as well. A very small sample of these include: unstable/hazardous trees, animals, electrical cables, unexploded ordnance, hazardous materials, rolling and falling debris, and lightning.
Personal safety is also vital to wildland firefighting. The proper use of PPE (personal protective equipment) and firefighting equipment will help minimise accidents. At the very minimum, wildland firefighters should have proper fire-retardant clothing (such as Nomex), protective headgear, wildland firefighting-specific boots, gloves, water for hydration, fire shelters, eye protection, and some form of communication (most commonly a radio).
Other resources are ranked according to importance and/or value. These include but are not limited to human health and safety, construction cost, ecological impacts, social and legal consequences and the costs of protection. Defendability is also considered, as more effort will need to be expended on saving a house with a wooden-shake roof than one with a tile roof, for example.
Across the United States Wildfire suppression is administered by land management agencies including the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Army Corps of Engineers, and state departments of forestry. All of these groups contribute to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group and the National Interagency Fire Center.
The National Interagency Fire Center hosts the National Interagency Coordination Center (NICC). NICC's primary responsibility is positioning and managing national resources (i.e. Hotshot Crews, smokejumpers, air tankers, incident management teams, National Caterers, mobile shower units, and command repeaters). NICC also serves as clearing house for the dispatch ordering system. Reporting to NICC are 10 Geographic Area Coordination Centers (Alaska, Great Basin, Northern Rockies, Rocky Mountains, Southern California, Northern California, Eastern, Southern, and Southwest). Under each GACC are several dispatch zones.
Managing any number of resources over varying-size areas in often very rugged terrain is extremely challenging. An incident commander (IC) is charged with overall command of an incident. In the U.S., the Incident Command System designates this as being the first on scene providing they have sufficient training. The size of the fire, measured in acres or chains, as well as the complexity of the incident and threats to developed areas, will later dictate the class-level of IC required. Incident management teams aid on larger fire incidents to meet more complex priorities and objectives of the incident commander. It provides support staff to handle duties such as communication, fire behavior modeling, and map- and photo-interpretation. Again in the U.S., management coordination between fires is primarily done by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC).
|U.S. Fire Size Class|
|0-1/4 acre||1/4-10 acres||10–99 acres||100–299 acres||300–999 acres||1000–4999 acres||5000+|
Specific agencies and different incident management teams may include a number of different individuals with various responsibilities and varying titles. A fire information officer (PIOF) generally provides fire-related information to the public, for example. Branch chiefs and division chiefs serve as management on branches and divisions, respectively, as the need for these divisions arise. Investigators may be called to ascertain the fire's cause. Prevention officers such as forest rangers may patrol their jurisdictional areas to teach fire prevention and prevent some human-caused fires from happening to begin with.
Information may be communicated on fires in many forms. Radios, vocals, visual signals such as flagging and mirrors, literature such as an IAP or incident action plan, whistles and mobile touch-screen computer terminals are some examples. The USFS Visual Signal Code system provides symbols used to communicate from ground to air, while aircraft may use wing tilting, motor gunning or circling to communicate air-to-ground.
Radio communication is very typical for communication during a wildfire. This is due to the wide coverage provided and the ability to communicate in a one-to-many format. One of the most popular radio manufacturers for this application is Relm Wireless (also known as Bendix King and BK Radio). Relm Wireless is a company based in Florida, U.S., and hold many contracts with various government entities . The other up-and-coming company entering this niche market is Midland Radio. Midland Radio's U.S. headquarters is in the midwest (Kansas City, Missouri), and they manufacturer many radio models, including mobiles and portables .
Operating in the U.S. within the context of fire use, firefighters may only suppress fire that has become uncontrollable. Conversely, fires or portions of a fire that have previously been engaged by firefighters may be treated as fire use situation and be left to burn.
All fire suppression activities are based from an anchor point (such as lake, rock slide, road or other natural or artificial fire break). From an anchor point firefighters can work to contain a wild land fire without the fire outflanking them.
Large fires often become extended campaigns. Incident command posts (ICPs) and other temporary fire camps are constructed to provide food, showers, and rest to fire crews.
Weather conditions and fuel conditions are large factors in the decisions made on a fire. Within the U.S., the Energy Release Component (ERC) is a scale relating fuel energy potential to area. The Burning Index (BI) relates flame length to fire spread speed and temperature. The Haines Index (HI) tracks stability and humidity of air over a fire. The Keetch-Byram Drought Index relates fuels to how quickly they could ignite and to what percentage they should burn. The Lightning Activity Level (LAL) ranks lightning potential into six classes.
Fuel models are specific fuel designations determined by energy burning potential. Placed into 13 classes, they range from "short grass" (model 1) to "logging slash" (model 13). Low-numbered models burn at lower intensities than those at the higher end.
Direct attack is any treatment applied directly to burning fuel such as wetting, smothering, or chemically quenching the fire, or by physically separating the burning from not burned fuel. This includes the work of urban and wildland fire engines, fire personnel and aircraft applying water or fire retardant directly to the burning fuel. For most agencies, the objective is to make a fireline around all fire meant to be suppressed.
Preparatory suppression tactics used a distance away from the oncoming fire are considered indirect. Firelines may be built in this manner as well. Fuel reduction, indirect firelines, contingency firelines, backburning and wetting unburnt fuels are examples. This method may allow for more effective planning. It may allow for more ideally placed firelines in lighter fuels using natural barriers to fire and for safer firefighter working conditions in less smoke filled and cooler areas. However, it may also allow for more burned acreage, larger hotter fires, and the possibility of wasted time constructing unused firelines.
Attempts to control wildfires may also include by controlling the area that it can spread to by creating control lines: boundaries that contain no combustible material. These may be constructed by physically removing combustible material with tools and equipment, or portions may be naturally occurring. Lines may also be created by backfiring: creating small, low-intensity fires using driptorches or flares. The resultant fires are extinguished by firefighters or, ideally, directed in such a way that they meet the main fire front, at which point both fires run out of flammable material and are thus extinguished. Additionally, the use of long-term fire retardants, fire-fighting foams, and superabsorbent polymer gels may be used. Such compounds reduce the flammability of materials by either blocking the fire physically or by initiating a chemical reaction that stops the fire.
Unfortunately, any method can fail in the face of erratic or high-intensity winds and changing weather. Changing winds may cause fires to change direction and miss control lines. High-intensity winds may cause jumping or spotting as burning embers are carried through the air over a fireline. Burning trees may fall and burning materials may roll across the line, effectively negating the barrier.
The threat of wildfires does not cease after the flames have passed, as smoldering heavy fuels may continue to burn unnoticed for days after flaming. It is during this phase that either the burn area exterior or the complete burn area of a fire is cooled so as to not reignite another fire.
Constructed firelines, breaks, safety zones and other items may damage soil systems, encouraging erosion from surface run-off and gully formation. The loss of plant life from the fire also contributes to erosion. Construction of waterbars, the addition of plants and debris to exposed soils and other measures help to reduce this.
Fires at the wildland-urban interfaceEdit
"There are three categories of interface fire: The classic wildland/urban interface exists where well-defined urban and suburban development presses up against open expanses of wildland areas; the mixed wildland/urban interface is characterized by isolated homes, subdivisions and small communities situated predominantly in wildland settings; and the occluded wildland/urban interface exists where islands of wildland vegetation occur inside a largely urbanized area."
Expansive urbanization and other human activity in areas adjacent to wildlands is a primary reason for the catastrophic structural losses experienced in wildfires. Continued development of wildland-urban interface firefighting measures and the rebuilding of structures destroyed by fires has been met with criticism. Communities such as Sydney and Melbourne in Australia have been built within highly flammable forest fuels. The city of Cape Town, South Africa lies on the fringe of the Table Mountain National Park. In the western United States from the 1990s to 2007, over 8.5 million new homes were constructed on the wildland-urban interface.
Fuel buildup can result in costly, devastating fires as more new houses and ranches are built adjacent to wilderness areas. However, the population growth in these fringe areas discourages the use of current fuel management techniques. Smoke from fires is an irritant and a pollutant. Attempts to thin out the fuel load may be met with opposition due to the desirability of forested areas. Wildland goals may be further resisted because of endangered species protections and habitat preservation. The ecological benefit of fire is often overridden by the economic benefits of protecting structures and lives. Additionally, federal policies that cover wildland areas usually differ from local and state policies that govern urban lands.
In North America, the belief that fire suppression has substantially reduced the average annual area burned is widely held by resource managers and is often thought to be self-evident. However, this belief has been the focus of vocal debate in the scientific literature.
Equipment and personnelEdit
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (August 2010)
The success of wildfire suppression techniques is debated amongst the scientific community. A number of studies (produced during the 1990s) using Ontario government fire records compared either the number of fires or the average fire size between areas with and without aggressive fire suppression policies. They found that the average fire size was generally smaller in areas of aggressive policy. One report, written in 1998 by Stocks and Weber, said; "Use of fire as a management tool recognizes the natural role of fire and is applied judiciously for ecosystem maintenance and restoration in selected areas." A later 2005 study concluded that "Fire suppression is (functionally) effective insofar as it reduces area burned".
Other studies have concluded that the 20th century change in the fire cycle is a result of climate change. A 1993 study by Bergeron & Archambault said: "post-'Little Ice Age' climate change has profoundly decreased the frequency of fires in the northwestern Québec boreal forest" Critics have also highlighted that small fires are virtually unreported in areas without aggressive fire suppression policies, where detection often relies on reports from settlements or commercial aircraft, leading to incorrect average fire size data for those regions.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Wildfire suppression.|
- "New South Wales Rural Fire Service, Operations". NSW Rural Fire Service. NSW Government. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
- "Country Fire Authority, Op". Country Fire Authority. CFA (Australia). Retrieved 15 February 2014.
- "South Australian Country Fire Service". South Australian Country Fire Service. SACFS. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
- Forest Fire in Canada, Natural Resources Canada, 2008-06-05, archived from the original on 2009-05-30, retrieved 2009-05-01
- Incident Operations Standards Working Team (January 2006), Incident Response Pocket Guide (PDF), National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG), pp. i–101
- "Standard Firefighting Orders and 18 Watchout Situations". Risk Management. US Forest Service. Retrieved 12 October 2015.
- Our Trial by Fire, onearth.org, 12-1-07, retrieved 1-7-09 Check date values in:
- Interagency Strategy for the Implementation of Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy (PDF), National Interagency Fire Council, June 20, 2003, archived from the original (PDF) on September 16, 2008, retrieved 2008-12-21
- Wildland Fire Policy, US Forest Service, retrieved 2008-12-21
- "An Integration of Remote Sensing, GIS, and Information Distribution for Wildfire Detection and Management" (PDF), Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing, 64 (10): 977–985, October 1998, archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-08-16
- Hoose, Michael, Tech Tactics, Wildfire Magazine, archived from the original on 2011-07-18, retrieved 2009-01-21
- de Sousa Costa and Sandberg, 227.
- Effects of Fire on Soils and Erosion: Erosion and Mass Soil Movement, eWater CRC's Bushfire and Catchments, archived from the original on 2007-08-30, retrieved 2009-01-08
- City of West Covina Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan: Section 9 Wildfire, City of West Covina (California, USA), archived from the original on 2008-10-22, retrieved 2009-07-14
- Wildfire Suppression: Strategies for Containing Costs (PDF), National Academy of Public Administration, September 2002, ISBN 978-1-57744-094-9, archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-10-31, retrieved 2009-01-21
- Are Big Fires Inevitable? A Report on the National Bushfire Forum (PDF), Parliament House, Canberra: Bushfire CRC, 27 February 2007, archived from the original (PDF) on 26 February 2009, retrieved 2009-01-09
- Extreme Events: Wild & Forest Fire, archived from the original on 2009-01-14, retrieved 2009-01-07
- van Wagtendonk, Jan W. (2007), "The History and Evolution of Wildland Fire Use" (PDF), Fire Ecology, 3 (2): 3–17, doi:10.4996/fireecology.0302003, archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-07-25, retrieved 2008-08-24 (U.S. Government public domain material published in Association journal. See WERC Highlights -- April 2008)
- Healy, Megan (March 12, 2019). "Cal Poly researchers ready to tackle California's catastrophic fires with new institute". KSBY. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
- Stocks, Brian J (1991), The extent and impact of forest fires in northern circumpolar countries, MIT Press, archived from the original on 2012-04-04, retrieved 2010-08-05
- Ward, P.C.; A.G. Tithecott (1993), "The impact of fire management on the boreal landscape of Ontario", Aviation, Flood and Fire Management Branch Publication, 305.
- Weber, MG; Stocks, BJ (Nov 1998), "Forest Fires and Sustainability in the Boreal Forests of Canada", Ambio, 27 (7): 545–550, archived from the original on 4 April 2012, retrieved 8 July 2010.
- Cumming, S.G. (2005), "Effective fire suppression in boreal forests", Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 35 (4): 772–786, doi:10.1139/x04-174[permanent dead link]
- Johnson, Edward A (1996), Fire and Vegetation Dynamics: Studies from the North American Boreal Forest, Cambridge University Press, p. 144, ISBN 978-0-521-34943-7
- Yves Bergeron; Sylvain Archambault (1993). "Decreasing frequency of forest fires in the southern boreal zone of Québec and its relation to global warming since the end of the 'Little Ice Age'". The Holocene. 3 (3): 255–259. doi:10.1177/095968369300300307.
- Miyanishi, K; E. A. Johnson (2001), "Comment—A re-examination of the effects of fire suppression in the boreal forest", Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 31 (8): 1462, doi:10.1139/cjfr-31-8-1462.[permanent dead link]
- de Souza Costa, Fernando; Sandberg, David (2004), "Mathematical model of a smoldering log" (PDF), Combustion and Flame, 139 (139): 227–238, doi:10.1016/j.combustflame.2004.07.009, retrieved 2009-02-06
- Graham, Russell; McCaffrey, Sarah; Jain, Theresa B. (April 2004), "Science Basis for Changing Forest Structure to Modify Wildfire Behavior and Severity" (2.79MB PDF), Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-120, Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, retrieved 2009-02-06
- Karki, Sameer (2002), Community Involvement in and Management of Forest Fires in South East Asia (PDF), Project FireFight South East Asia, archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-07-30, retrieved 2009-02-13
- Mitchell, Joseph W. (September 2006), "Wind-enabled ember dousing" (PDF), Fire Safety Journal, 41 (6): 444–458, doi:10.1016/j.firesaf.2006.04.002[dead link]
- Sayre, A. P. (1994), Taiga, Twenty-First Century Books, ISBN 978-0-80-502830-0
- Stocks, B. J.; R. B. Street (1983), "Forest fire weather and wildfire occurrence in the boreal forest of northwestern Ontario", Resources and Dynamics of the Boreal Zone.: 249–265.
- Arno, S. F.; R. P. hammerly (1984), Timberline. Mountain and Arctic Forest Frontiers, Mountaineers Books, p. 304, ISBN 978-0-89886-085-6, ASIN 0898860857
- Arno, S.F.; Worrall, J; Carlson, C.E. (1995), "Larix lyallii: Colonist of tree-line and talus sites", Ecology and Management of Larix Forests: A Look Ahead: 72–78.
- Casals P, Valor T, Besalú A, Molina-Terrén D. Understory fuel load and structure eight to nine years after prescribed burning in Mediterranean pine forests. DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2015.11.050
- Valor T, González-Olabarria JR, Piqué M. Assessing the impact of prescribed burning on the growth of European pines. DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2015.02.002.
- Janos Besenyo: Forest Fires as the New Form of Terrorism, Terrorism and Political Violence, pages 1–13, Published online: 11 Jul 2017
- The International Association of Wildland Fire
- Canadian Wildland Fire Information System
- The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC)
- British Columbia Ministry of Forests Protection Branch -- FAQs
- United States National Interagency Fire Center
- Wildfire History and Ecology
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health - Fighting Wildfires
- Ballistic System for Fighting Forest Fire
- sps services