Wildfire Mitigation: Prevention, Preparedness, and Facts

In the line of fire? Read on to learn more about wildfire prevention, preparedness, and post-fire mitigation!


Wildfires are a growing problem within the United States. Fortunately, there are preventative measures that forestry services and fire departments take to decrease or even prevent forest fires in the long term:
·       Prescribed burns – Controlled or prescribed burns are implemented to decrease understory litter (collection of dead or decaying vegetation) and can drastically decrease the fuel supply for wildfires in a safe manner. Removal of this litter can prevent high-intensity wildfires in the long-term.
·       Mechanical thinning – Like prescribed burns, mechanical thinning is a process that removes litter from the forest floor. Mechanical thinning is accomplished using bulldozers and other heavy equipment to remove potential fuel from the surface in fire-prone regions.
·       Dozer lines – Dozer lines are fire lines that are cut through a forest to create a break in the vegetation and to turn up non-flammable mineral soil. In the event of a forest fire, there will be little material for the fire to consume, and this will slow down or stop the spread of the wildfire. 

For more information on the benefits of prescribed burning and mechanical thinning, as well as how it interacts with forest ecology, check out this U.S. Department of Agriculture article.


In the event of a forest fire, it is necessary for firefighters to have the right tools on hand to combat the flames. One of those is a backup firefighting water supply. Here are some common portable water tanks that see use during wildfire fighting:

·       Onion Tank – Onion Tanks are self-rising water storage tanks that can fold up for ease of storage. These can be a quick and simple firefighting solution in the field, and they require very little investment of storage space or set-up time.
·       Frame Tank – These open top tank types typically have a lightweight metal frame that will fold open and contain an interior liner for water storage. Frame tanks can then manifold together to create a chain of water reservoirs for firefighting and emergency response situations.
·       Water Trailer – Water trailers are a fully-mobile bulk water containment option and are towable to most locations. Mobile storage solutions can be used to refill other portable tanks or to fight fires independently through the use of spray bar and fire hose attachments.
·       Dip Bucket – For aerial firefighting, dip tanks are collapsible buckets slung underneath a helicopter. These can be refilled by water reservoirs or portable water tanks such as onion tanks or frame tanks in the field to suppress wildfires.

Forest fires

Did you know that the United States averages 100,000 wildfires each year? These fires clear approximately four to five million acres of land and move at a speed of 14 miles an hour. States in the western portion of the United States, such as California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming see the worst effects of these fires. However, Florida, where GEI Works is headquartered, experiences 3,300 wildfires annually.

Wildfires are caused by natural events, such as lava or lighting, but nearly all fires in the US are caused by humans from unattended campfires, debris burning, discarded cigarettes, parking vehicles on dry grass during drought or arson.

According to Timothy Ingalsbee, co-director of the Association for Fire Ecology in the US, “Livestock grazing, commercial logging, and systematic fire suppression has converted some frequent, low-severity fire regimes, such as the ponderosa pines in the interior west, into infrequent, high-severity fire regimes.” As a result, present day fire seasons last much longer than they did several decades ago, in 2013 it was found that fire seasons lasted 18% longer than they did in 1979. 

Furthermore, US Federal Wildfire Suppression and Protection costs have tripled since the 1990s, which accounts for half of the Forest Service’s annual budget. 

High-intensity fires can lead to top soils becoming hydrophobic and can decrease or prevent water absorption leading to an increase in flooding, intensified erosion, and as a result, faster transport of nitrates from ash.  This will change the hydrology of a region and can have negative long-term effects on the environment.

Erosion Control

Erosion concerns following wildfires can persist for days or weeks after a fire to the following years as the hydrology of the region changes. 

Rainfall following a wildfire can carry black ash rich in phosphates, nitrates, and ammonia from the burned forest into streams and rivers which can clog the respiratory systems of aquatic life, lead to algal blooms, and pollute drinking water reservoirs. Additional implications are the transport of debris, such as downed trees, tree limbs, and brush into waterways. 

Forestry services can combat these environmental concerns through proactive erosion control methods, such as using coir logs, coir mats, silt fences, ditch checks, boom, and turbidity curtains to slow and stop the erosion of soil and post-fire debris flow.

To learn more about wildfire erosion control and pollution prevention, visit GEI Work’s Forestry page.

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