Wildfire is one of the main causes of global deforestation and destruction of precious wildlife. In the United States and other parts of the world, fire ravages thousands of acres of forest land, consuming anything on its path. The speed at which forest fire spreads is often determined by the weather condition, nature of the vegetation present and physical features. Fossil Charcoals discovered by archaeolgers shows that wildfire isn’t new to modern history. In fact, evidence has shown that the history of forest fires dates back to over one hundred million years ago. The obvious reason why the forest fires have been occurring all these years is this- the earth is a flammable planet. But what makes the earth flammable? Well, you see, the earth is loaded with carbon-rich vegetables, oxygen, volcanic activities, and lightning. When two or more of these elements combine a fire is started.
Wildfires can cause large scale damage and destroy thousands of acres of land within minutes. The reason why it can do so much damage within a small time is that it uses anything it comes in contact with as fuel.
Every year, more than 100,000 wildfires are reported in the United States. These fires have destroyed over 9 million acres of land.
So, in this article, we are going to be taking a close look at wildfires with a view to learning how they are started and some important things to do before during and after a wildfire.
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of this article we are going to briefly look at the definition of wildfire.
What exactly is a wildfire?
A wildfire which is also known as a forest fire or a bush fire is an uncontrolled fire that often occurs in the forest or wild land areas, but can also consume agricultural resources, houses and even structures. Most times, wildfires begin small and unnoticed but they spread very quickly, igniting trees, bushes, and homes.
Causes of wildfires
Humans are the main causes of wildfires in the United States and other parts of the world. Most of these fires are caused by careless campers, cigarette butt and acts of arson. Below are some main causes of wildfires;
This is the act of setting a vehicle, property or any other thing on fire intentionally. Arson is sometimes done by people to receive compensation from insurance companies. 30% of the wildfires that occurs in the US are caused by Arson.
Poorly disposed cigarettes are another cause of wildfires. It is common for smokers to throw the partially lit cigarette bud on the ground. Smokers must know that small negligence in their part can cause serious damage to the environment.
While it is legal to burn debris, it may spiral out of control and cause a wildfire. Wind plays an important role in the spread of wildfires, as it can cause flames or embers of burning debris to spread into a farm thereby spreading into fields and forests.
Camping is a fun experience for old and young alike. Careless campers who know little or nothing about fire safety make laughable mistakes that sometimes result in a wildfire.
No doubts, it is fun to shoot fireworks into the sky, but special care needs to be taken especially in the hands of amateurs. Fireworks must be avoided during the dry season as they may end up as flames in unwanted areas.
Natural causes of fire
Burning lava from volcanic eruptions can some time cause wildfires
Hot lightning, which can last for a long time can produce a spark that can set off a forest fire.
Things to do before, during and after a wildfire
As you probably know, wildfires can cause large scale damage to the environment, our homes, and properties and even put our precious lives and that of our loved ones at risk. In order to survive, there are some important things you must do before, during and after a wildfire to ensure that you and your loved ones are safe and sound.
Before a wildfire
Wildfires usually occur during the summer months, between April and September. Whether you live in an area that isn’t prone to forest fires or an area where wildfires occurs regularly, it is important that you take the following tips to heart before one arrives.
Keep flammable materials far away from your home
This means removing flammable liquids and gas like gasoline and propane tanks as well as other flammable material like dry branches and leaves. Don’t forget to remove plant remains and debris from your gutter.
Watch the news
Pay close attention to news especially during wildfire season. Listen for warnings about wildfires in your area.
Create a detailed map of your home or property and mark an emergency exit for each room in your home. (If a narrow passage or window is the fastest and safest way to escape, ensure that everyone knows about it). If you live in a large apartment or a condo, sit down with your family and brainstorm the fastest way to leave the building and at least two alternative ways to do so if the elevator isn’t working.
Learn how to prevent wildfires
No doubts, wildfires can occur naturally, but at the same time, they can also be caused by humans. Careless campers and smokers have started many devastating wildfires unknowingly. To ensure that you don’t start a wildfire that will bring untold damage to lives and properties you have to be very careful when handling fire.
Learn more about fire safety techniques
Teach the members of your family how to use a fire extinguisher and what to do if anyone’s clothing catches fire. (Stop, drop and roll)
Insure your property
This is something you must take seriously especially if you live in an area that is prone to forest fires. Create time to review your home insurance policy, update your home inventory and contact your home insurance broker to make sure that your property is protected. If you are in doubt or not really sure about the best way to protect your home, then you should contact your insurance broker for insights.
Prepare an emergency kit, with 4 days worth of supplies for your family members and pets.
Below are some things that should be in a standard emergency kit;
- A portable bag
- Phone and power bank
- First aid box
- Torchlight and a couple of batteries
- Non-perishable food and snacks (Protein bars)
- Pet food
- Candles and matches
Your emergency safety bag should only contain items that are critical to your survival if hell breaks loose.
During a wildfire
Keep the following in mind when you are aware that a wild/forest fire is approaching your neighborhood.
Wet your roof
Unless you receive strict information from the local fire department to limit your water use, consider using a sprinkler to wet your property and soak your roof. Doing this will prevent flying embers from starting a fire in your property.
Monitor the news
Since evacuation notices and important directions are relayed on the news, it is important that you pay close attention to the warnings announced on by the several authorities on the news. Promptly obey the instructions given by the authorities and governments.
Shut your windows and doors to reduce your exposure to smoke
Do you know that the smoke emanating from a wildfire a couple of miles from home can negatively affect your health? So keep your windows and doors tightly closed until the fire is extinguished. If you have time, consider covering other openings like vents with plywood and tapes.
Be prepared to evacuate
Don’t wait till the fire is a mile or two from your home before taking action. As soon as an evacuation notice is issued by the local authorities, take prompt action and prepare to leave. Don’t forget to pack things you can’t live without or important documents (medication). Ignore replaceable items.
Fuel your car and park it in a position that will be easy for you to zoom off quickly.
After a wildfire
Follow these steps when the authorities say it is safe to return to your home.
Before heading back home, head to the mall or store in your area to get the following;
- Bottled water
- First aid kit
- A camera
- A cell phone
- Garbage bags
- Closed-toe shoes
Walk around your home before going inside.
Look out for, loose debris, out of place wiring and gas smells. If you notice a gas smell or downed power lines, quickly call your gas or power company before entering your home.
Turn off the main power before going in.
Turning off the main power will save and reduce the odd of an electrical accident occurring. Take fuel burning devices like a charcoal grill or generator from your home and keep them in a ventilated area.
Don’t drink the water
Regardless of how thirsty you are, don’t drink the water until your local officials say it is safe to drink. Don’t try to purify it or take any steps to make it drinkable. Instead, drink only bottled water. Also, don’t flush the toilet until you are sure that the septic system is working properly.
Throw damaged items out
Carefully remove any damaged items from your living quarters. Canned items that don’t look damaged should be wiped thoroughly to remove chemical residue and ash. Throw out perishable food and drinks that were in your freezer if your home lost power during an extended period.
Keep in mind that your home insurance policy could cover for the expense of replacing the food you have to throw out. Take a clear picture of things you are throwing away, just in case your insurance company needs details.
Take pictures of the damages in your home before cleaning up. This is surely going to make it easier for your insurance company to get a picture of the extent of the damage so that they can process your claim.
Contact you’re your insurance broker
If your home or property is seriously damaged, your broker will contact your insurance company to help get your repairs started.
These are just a handful of steps you can take during, before and after a wildfire to protect your home and loved ones. To learn more about how an insurance policy can cover your property in the event of a wildfire, visit a reputable insurance company in your area.
Preparation is the key to surviving a wildfire. While everything is still ok, it is wise that you stock on supplies you will need and take steps to protect your home. Always listen to the news especially during the dry season when wildfires are common to get first-hand information on fire safety and evacuation warning.