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1GEMLOGOStackedThe Science Behind
Wildfires and Firefighting
Wildfires (, with a little help from Ms. Sabrina Lyons and Angel, Makayla, and Jordan)
Planefiredrop - Copy (4)A wildfire is a destructive and unplanned fire in a forest or other natural area. As the name suggests, wildfires are uncontrolled, and they can quickly spread over large swaths of land. The speed with which they spread and their massive sizes are the biggest ways in which they differ from other fires.
The Science Behind Wildfires                   
Wildfires require three things to exist: fuel, oxygen, and a source of heat. These elements are known as the fire triangle. In a dry, wooded area, dried grasses or other vegetation may serve as fuel. There is always an abundant supply of oxygen in the air, so all that’s needed is heat for a fire to start. This heat may come from human actions or a natural source, such as lightning or even extreme heat from the sun. When humans supply the heat, it’s often by an accidental act, like carelessly discarding a cigarette or leaving a campfire unattended. Once a fire has sparked, its ability to spread depends on its fuel load, which is the amount of flammable material that surrounds the fire source. Wildfires grow so quickly because they often have a lot of fuel sources to feed on. If the fuel is dry, as it is in many parts of California, the fire spread will be harder to control, as it will feed on the fuel much faster. Because wildfires burn so hot, the heat from the flames can actually dry out materials ahead of the fire as it approaches, creating more fuel for the flames.

Weather also plays an important role in how wildfires behave. Windy weather provides wildfires with more oxygen, which helps them to spread farther and even change direction. Extreme wildfires can even create their own weather patterns and produce winds that can carry embers. These conditions can also help to create firestorm clouds that can either produce rain to help combat the fire or cause lightning that ignites more fires.

How Do We Fight Wildfires?
The goal when fighting a wildfire is to remove either the heat, the fuel, or the oxygen. By successfully removing an element from the fire triangle, firefighters are able to put out the fire. This is known as fire suppression. One example of suppression is the dropping of fire retardant or water from an aircraft to eliminate heat. Another way firefighters combat wildfires is by clearing away vegetation and trees by using hand tools, such as chainsaws, as a way to eliminate sources of fuel. Suppression also often involves the use of tools to dig or scrape fuel-free boundaries called fire lines that can slow down or stop a fire. Besides water from helicopters and air tankers, hoses and portable pumps may also help fight wildfires if there is a source of water nearby.

Climate Change and Wildfires
Scientists have directly associated the increased number of wildfires in California and other places around the world with climate change. Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide cause climate change, trapping the heat from the sun and making the temperature rise. As a result, places like California experience ever more extreme heat and drought conditions that lead to an increase in wildfires. As wildfires burn, they release more carbon dioxide, thus further contributing to the climate change cycle.

How to Prepare for Wildfires
During a wildfire, the homes and businesses of people living in the area are at considerable risk. Advance preparation can reduce these risks, which include property loss, injury, or even death. Creating an extended safety zone around the house is a good way to prepare. This zone should be 30 to 100 feet wide and contain little or no flammable vegetation or combustible materials. Homeowners should also regularly trim branches overhanging the house, and lawns should always be cut and well-maintained. Replacing highly flammable plants like Italian cypress or ornamental juniper with fire-resistant alternatives can also help stop a home from being ignited by flying embers.

Manufacturers often build homes with materials that cannot withstand a wildfire. People living in high-risk areas should inspect their homes with this in mind, starting at the roof. Replace flammable shingle or wood roofs with composite or clay tile. The walls of a house may also be a source of concern, as they are commonly made of wood products. The cost of replacing the walls with building materials that are resistant to fire is worth the safety it brings to those who live in fire-prone areas.

People should also be prepared to water down their home and yard if necessary, by having more than one water hose that’s long enough to reach the farthest corners of the property. To reduce the risk of embers flying into the home, homeowners should also place wire mesh over vents and use a non-flammable screen to cover the chimney.

Idaho Prepare and Prevention (Idaho Department of Lands)
IDL Idaho Prepare and Prevent

How Fire Restrictions Are Set

(Coeur d’Alene) – Many Idahoans have heard of fire restrictions during the summertime, but how decisions to implement restrictions are made, and who makes those calls, has always been a little mysterious.

The Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) hopes to make the fire restriction process more transparent.

The agency publishes Idaho’s most current fire restriction information online via its Fire Restrictions Finder webpage. The page features a GIS-enabled map so you can know what restrictions are in place anywhere in the state before you head out for weekend adventures.

You can find IDL’s Fire Restriction finder online at Knowing before you go can help prevent human caused wildfires. The agency also makes the current year’s Idaho Fire Restriction Plan, the source document fire managers use to make restriction decisions, available on its website. The proclamations that set restrictions in specific areas are now published online, too.

How Fire Restrictions Prevent Human-Caused Fires 
Fire restrictions set reasonable limitations on the public and private landowners. The higher the fire risk, the higher the stage. With each stage, outdoor activities that could spark wildfires are increasingly limited. Restrictions reduce the risk of human-caused wildfires during unusually high fire danger and/or burning conditions, and when other prevention efforts have been exhausted.  

There are two levels of fire restrictions in Idaho, Stage 1 and Stage 2. 
Where do Fire Restrictions Apply

Idaho is divided into eight fire restriction areas, each of which corresponds with a wildfire dispatch area and includes designated zones within the area.

Who Sets Fire Restrictions 
No one person or agency decides when to go into or out of fire restrictions. It is a decision made collaboratively by the agencies responsible for wildland fire protection within the eight dispatch areas. Key stakeholders include the Idaho Department of Lands, the Bureau of Land Management, the USDA Forest Service, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs/Tribal representatives. Fire restrictions impact many facets of land use in Idaho beyond just recreation. This includes forestry operators working in timberland. Fire managers do not take decisions to set or remove restriction lightly.

What Conditions Give Rise to Fire Restrictions
The fire management experts responsible for restrictions consider many different factors, including fire danger rating, fuel moisture measurements, weather outlook, availability of firefighting resources, and whether the number of human-caused wildfires is on the rise. When the experts determine conditions warrant imposing fire restrictions, the date and time is set for the restrictions to take effect, agencies collaborate on how to notify the public, and a proclamation is signed by the Idaho State Forester, who works for IDL. If conditions rapidly deteriorate, an area can move from no restrictions directly to Stage 2.

When conditions improve, fire managers reduce or entirely remove fire restrictions for an area.


Watch IDL Fire Prevention Jen's Fire Prevention Tips


PRACTICE CAMPFIRE SAFETY!              Listen to Fire Prevention Jen - Practice Campfire Safety!

PARKING AND DRY GRASS DON’T MIX! Listen to Fire Prevention Jen - Dry Grass and Parking Don't Mix!

GET YOUR BURN PERMIT                         Listen to Fire Prevention Jen - Get Your Burn Permit!

FIREWISE YOUR PROPERTY!                  Listen to Fire Prevention Jen - Firewise Your Property!

Stay Safe During a Wildfire

Ultimately, keeping yourself and your family safe from injury is the most important thing. In order to be safe during a wildfire, be prepared with an emergency supply kit. This kit should include items such as blankets, bottled water, and first aid supplies. The kit should also include respirators to help you avoid breathing in smoke particles. If officials have not given an order to evacuate, stay indoors and in a room that has few or no windows. In addition, the room should not have a fireplace that could let smoke in. If possible, an air purifier or cleaner can help reduce any smell of smoke that may enter the room.

If an evacuation order has been given, don’t delay. It’s helpful to have more than one exit route and several places where you can stay until it is safe to return home. Because not all places welcome animals, people with pets should do research in advance to find places that will accept them.

Post Wildfire Safety Risk- Flash Flooding

Flash flooding, debris and mud flow danger is enhanced around the Pioneer Fire​ burn scar. Burnt vegetation has altered the soil properties in that the ground is unable to absorb rainfall effectively in portions of the burned area. Without vegetation to hold the soil in place, heavy rain can produce mud and debris flows. When normally dry soil becomes overly saturated, it can reach a point where it turns to a liquid state and flows downhill, essentially becoming a river of mud. Mud and debris flows can destroy homes, wash out bridges and roadways, and knock down trees. They can also deposit large amounts of mud and other debris on previously clear surfaces, damaging or burying everything in their path.

Additional Fire Safety Resources