Prevention and Education


It's That Time Of Year Again...Wildland Fire Season

Wildland fire season is upon us, and much earlier than normal. Due to drier than normal conditions, fuels are ripe for ignition and we are already seeing large, damaging fires in southern California. Not enough emphasis can be placed on how important it is for citizens to ensure they have cleared and cleaned their property, and maintain a 100 foot clearance around their home. While we all are busy, the time spent making sure you and your home have a fighting chance during a wildfire can mean the difference between your home's and your survival.

Below is a brief article on how wildfires work. Knowing the why's of something can often help us better understand the how to's. Then check out the informative Wildland Fire Safety info sheet from the NFPA

How Wildfires Work

Wildfires spread based on the type and quantity of fuel that surrounds it. Fuel can include everything from trees, underbrush and dry grassy fields to homes. The amount of flammable material that surrounds a fire is referred to as the fuel load. Fuel load is measured by the amount of available fuel per unit area, usually tons per acre.

A small fuel load will cause a fire to burn and spread slowly, with a low intensity. If there is a lot of fuel, the fire will burn more intensely, causing it to spread faster. The faster it heats up the material around it, the faster those materials can ignite. The dryness of the fuel can also affect the behavior of the fire. When the fuel is very dry, it is consumed much faster and creates a fire that is much more difficult to contain.

Here are the basic fuel characteristics that decide how it affects a fire:

  • Size and shape

  • Arrangement

  • Moisture content

Small fuel materials, also called flashy fuels, such as dry grass, pine needles, dry leaves, twigs and other dead brush, burn faster than large logs or stumps (this is why you start a fire with kindling rather than logs). On a chemical level, different fuel materials take longer to ignite than others. But in a wildfire, where most of the fuel is made of the same sort of material, the main variable in ignition time is the ratio of the fuel's total surface area to its volume. Since a twig's surface area is not much larger than its volume, it ignites quickly. By comparison, a tree's surface area is much smaller than its volume, so it needs more time to heat up before it ignites.

As the fire progresses, it dries out the material just beyond it -- heat and smoke approaching potential fuel causes the fuel's moisture to evaporate. This makes the fuel easier to ignite when the fire finally reaches it. Fuels that are somewhat spaced out will also dry out faster than fuels that are packed tightly together, because more oxygen is available to the thinned-out fuel. More tightly-packed fuels also retain more moisture, which absorbs the fire's heat.

Bonsor, Kevin. "How Wildfires Work" 29 May 2001. <> 17 May 2014.

Be Safe!

Elizabeth Martin
Public Education Officer

Fire Safety Education

West Point Fire Protection District is proud to assist in educating our communities in fire safety. It isn't just the children at the elementary school who can benefit from fire safety education. Did you know that nearly two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes without working smoke detectors? And during winter months, one of the leading causes of home fires is due to heating equipment.

Every year families lose their homes and possessions to wildfire. These losses can be minimized if homeowners take preventive measures and learn how to protect their property. And something as simple as making your address visible during both day and night can assist firefighters in finding you faster in an emergency.

Fire safety education is for everyone. If you or your organization or group has questions or would like to have a fire safety visit, please contact us.


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