With changing climates across the planet, wildfires are becoming an increasing concern, and even in the UK, we need to be prepared with wildfire firefighting equipment. Being equipped with the correct tools will make all the difference and can easily prevent a small fire causing disastrous damage to wildlife, natural habitats, businesses and lives.
In 2019, the UK saw over 100 large wildfires, making it the worst year on record, with 17,199 hectares being burnt.
While this is nothing compared to the wildfires experienced in Australia, southern Europe and the Americas, it still has a devastating impact.
What Is A Wildfire, and How Do They Start?
A wildfire is an uncontrolled fire involving combustible vegetation which spreads across large areas, such as fields and woodland in rural areas. Wildfires can also be termed as forest fires, grass fires, peat fires and bush fires, depending on the type of vegetation being burnt.
The cause can vary but they often occur where an area is suffering a drought and has been dry and hot for a prolonged period. This makes the vegetation dry and perfect for ignition.
A wildfire can be started in a variety of ways. Many are started by lightning and the spark it produces when it strikes trees, power cables, rocks and other objects. Unfortunately, these cannot be prevented.
However, a great number of wildfires are preventable. Discarded cigarette ends dropped on the ground or thrown out of a car window can start a fire, as can campfires, barbeques and controlled fires which are left burning or are not correctly extinguished. Accidents can also occur with fireworks or where equipment has gone up in flames after an accident or failure. Simply just being mindful and prepared are simple ways to prevent these types of fires.
Arson is also one of the most common causes. On private property, you should do everything you can to deter such behaviour such as security fences and securing equipment.
How To Fight A Wildfire
Depending on their size and type, there are many ways of tackling a wildfire. When it comes to a fire in its initial stages, a fire extinguisher, fire sand or a fire beater are all potential ways of safely extinguishing the flames.
As the fire starts to progress, then specialised equipment is needed to extinguish and contain a wildfire.
Fire beaters are a classic tool and use industrial-grade rubber to starve the flames of oxygen and cool the area. On the end of a long handle, this allows you to keep a safe distance whilst doing this.
A forestry rakehoe, also known as a McLeod tool, is two-sided. While one side looks like an ordinary rake and is issued to create fire lines and remove debris from the path, the blade on the other end is suitable for cutting branches and turf.
The forestry rake has four serrated teeth which are sharp enough for cutting through roots and brush as well as creating fire lines. It’s also used for moving burning material back into an already-burned ‘black’ area so it can burn itself out without spreading.
When it comes to constructing fire breaks, the firefighter’s axe is ideal for chopping wood and other large debris. The mattock blade on the other end of the axe is designed for digging through soil and will break apart roots to once again limit combustibles in the path of a fire.
Even in large wildfires, these pieces of equipment are essential when partnered with other methods of firefighting such as hoses, or even aircraft.
Do I Need Wildfire Equipment?
It’s recommended that anywhere with risk should consider having at least the basic wildfire equipment, such as a fire beater. Any outside space open to the public or which is worked on should have provisions.
Holiday parks, outdoor trails and farms are perhaps the areas most at risk. As such, you should have wildfire firefighting equipment located in areas where the greatest risks exist, whether this is just one location or a series of locations around a premises.
Of course, with a wildfire, prevention is far better. Once one starts, they’re hard to stop, and as the phrase goes, they spread like wildfire.
Especially where conditions are dry and warm, you should always consider your actions when lighting a fire or using hot tools and machinery. Take precautions so you’re prepared if something does go wrong, and should a fire begin, take immediate action by extinguishing a small fire yourself or calling the fire brigade.