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.

Five Important Considerations for Salt Water Projects

There are five main factors to consider when selecting floating barriers for a salt water project.  

aquatic plant boomLongevity: The widely-used reinforced PVC fabrics in turbidity curtain and floating boom are often durable enough to withstand general saltwater conditions.  However, due to extended deployment in areas with higher than usual pH levels, high, low, or high-to-low temperature fluctuation, and contaminated water where chemicals or hydrocarbons may be present, consideration should be given to other fabric options available.  Most often fabric boom or curtain is not meant to be a permanent solution. When requiring containment for more than one to three years, you should take fabric and materials selection under advisement. 

Corrosion:  Galvanized steel cable, marine-grade aluminum fasteners, anchor points, and similar components are subject to corrosion if placed in a salt water environment for more than a year.  These can upgrade to stainless steel for much longer resistance to the corrosive effects of salt water.  Also recommended for use are zinc anodes in conjunction with stainless steel components.  Zinc anode is a metal that releases its ions faster than surrounding metal and therefore draws corrosion to it rather than the marine-grade aluminum connectors.  Zinc anodes utilized in conjunction with stainless steel can increase the life of the metal components significantly for longer-term projects in salt water. For shorter term projects, galvanized components can be used up to 12 months. 

Forces:  One of the largest considerations factored in when selecting turbidity curtain or debris boom are the forces present in most salt water bodies.  Force and motion and the stressors created by the tide, currents, wave action, winds, and water depth are all critical factors in determining the right boom or curtain to deploy for saltwater projects.  Carefully review these factors as it will determine whether or not a permeable fabric should be added to a portion of the skirt to allow for greater flow in higher-current conditions where billowing will render the floating barrier ineffective, or if additional support will be needed.  

In addition to permeable fabrics, chain, connectors, stress plates, cables, and floats must be chosen to best withstand the greater forces that are present in bodies of salt water.  If water column depth is a factor, then longer skirts will require bulkier chain, hardier cables and tension systems, larger floats, and the addition, installation, and utilization of reefing lines. 

Seaweed sargassum Boom permanentThe most important consideration when dealing with saltwater conditions and the forces likely to be exerted on the turbidity curtain or boom is proper anchoring. The key factor for the successful performance of curtain in salt water projects is sufficient and effective anchoring.  Often salt water conditions require dual anchoring systems, especially in tidal conditions where flow may reverse from one side to its opposite.  Additional items may be required to install or keep the curtain performing as needed in these conditions, including tidal compensators, tow bridles, reefing lines and buoys.  

Navigation:   Another factor taken into consideration is whether or not turbidity curtain or boom will deploy in a navigable waterway.  Should there be marine traffic, anchoring, and curtain layout may be affected.  Anchoring plans may require adjustment to allow for unimpeded marine traffic. Additionally, marine regulations may require the use of warning signs, buoys, navigational lights or floating markers.  GEI Works can recommend and supply navigational accessories to protect project areas and traffic through shared waterways where the curtain or boom is installed. 

Maintenance:  Maintenance should not be neglected with deployed turbidity curtain or boom for saltwater projects.  A vigorous inspection and maintenance schedule should be undertaken to ensure the curtain remains effective and safe.

Recommended frequency for inspection could be as often as daily in high marine traffic, construction, high-current, and wind or wave conditions.  Turbidity curtains or boom should be removed before severe storms and should be inspected as soon as possible following a major weather event.  

The inspection should include checking the curtain for marine growth, and ensuring the skirt has not become buried in debris or sediment.  The Army Corps of Engineers recommends that the skirt remain one foot from the bottom at all times.  

Check connections, buoys, and mooring lines for marine growth and clean, if needed.  Re-positioning or re-tensioning of anchors may be required periodically to maintain an effective profile and to ensure the settling basin shape and size remains stable. Components or sections may require cleaning, maintenance, replacement parts, or section removal and replacement. Curtain formerly placed in salt water should be rinsed with fresh water thoroughly and allowed to dry before being stored for further use.

GEI Works recommends the practice of utilizing a log to record inspection and maintenance required and performed on a job site for the duration of the project and can provide one for use.

Orion floating trash net boom

Armed with the considerations above, our customers can rely on our technical team to find them the perfect containment solution for saltwater projects.  Floating boom and barrier recommendations are based on supplied information, site drawings, bathymetric and site analysis, and may not perform as intended should unforeseen variations in site conditions occur. Visit our website for more information on floating boom and barriers. http://www.erosionpollution.com/floatingboom.html