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How Wild Is That Fire?

There are a number of ways that Nature is capable of completely hammering us. Winds, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes are commonly viewed as catastrophes. One source that is garnering greater attention is fire. Yes, fires are typically seen as losses that are localized, affecting individual properties. However, fires can occur on a catastrophic level when they consist of flames that spread very quickly over large areas.

Wildfires can occur in any place with heavy forestation that experiences a protracted dry spell which makes such areas vulnerable to fire. Such fires occur due to a variety of reasons, especially from lightning strikes and, sadly, from human error such as mishandled or abandoned campfires, fireworks and arson.

Wildfires occur primarily in the West, Southwest and Southern portions of the U.S. They occur in the tens of thousands each year and generate tens of millions of dollars in losses.  Wildfires, by far, start, burn and end without negative consequences. In fact, wildfires are quite necessary in the life cycle of forests, helping to clear out strangling underbrush and encouraging new growth. However, problems arise when humans and nature interact.

Many persons enjoy wooded locales and communities often spring up in places that are highly vulnerable to large-scale fires. When they occur near residences and towns, alerts arise, tracking fire progress, sending in resources and working on mitigating possible loss.

Areas threatened by hurricanes, quakes and storms are assisted by methods of tracking and assessing the danger. Wildfires are now entering the era where fires can be assessed in a similar manner. Currently wildfire evaluation has more to do with judging area conditions, assessing how temperatures, drought levels, and available fuel sources affect the likelihood of fire. Vulnerability is described as low, moderate, high and extreme. However, while still undergoing study and refinement, wildfires will now be classified after they occur, placed in categories that will help others better prepare a course of action such as when to clear property of possible fuel, take other mitigating action and/or when to decide to vacate property for safe areas.


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