Structure fires spreading into Alaska’s wildlands have sparked at least 144 wildfires since 2015
Jun 24, 2023
By Alaska Division of Forestry & Fire Protection on May 11, 2023
Structure fires spreading into the wildlands are one of the leading "miscellaneous causes" of fast spreading wildfires in Alaska.
Between 2015 and 2022, Division of Forestry & Fire Protection suppression resources responded to 144 wildfires that were started by buildings catching on fire. Protecting homes and property is a major focus of wildland fire prevention efforts, however every season it does happen in reverse, and building fires cause wildfires. Modern building materials and household items contain vast amounts of stored energy that when released can easily spread beyond the building. In addition, everyday typical activities like stoking a woodstove, running hot water, doing laundry or even heating the chicken coop can also create opportunities for fire to ignite and rapidly spread to the outdoors as well. Taking steps to prevent these wildfires from occurring will go a long way in reducing the destruction caused by fast moving wildfires in Alaska.
How does a burning building start a wildland fire?
Direct Contact: The flames or embers make direct contact with an ignitable vegetation.
Convection: The energy/gases emitted dries out and heats up nearby vegetation (grass, duff, branches, leaves) to the point of ignition.
Conductive: A hot item transfers heat energy, igniting another item such as a hot steel pipe in contact with dry grass.
Radiation: Energy is transferred through electromagnetic waves.
How to protect wildlands from a structure or vehicle fire.
One of the most important initial attack successes of the 2022 fire season occurred in the Hillside neighborhood of Anchorage on May 22nd. The structure fire pictured here in the Rabbit Creek area quickly spread into the surrounding private parcel causing numerous evacuations. The Anchorage Fire Department and Mat-Su's DOF helitack helicopter along with Palmer's Gannett Glacier Initial Attack crew worked throughout the night to contain the fire by morning. This was a very close call remembered by all in the neighborhood and surrounding areas.
To prevent structure fires from causing wildfires, it is important to take steps to reduce the risk of building fires in the first place. This can include properly maintaining buildings and their electrical systems, keeping flammable materials away from heat sources, and having fire suppression systems in place.
It is also important to be aware of the risk of wildfires in your area and to take steps to prepare for them. This can include creating defensible space around your home, having an evacuation plan in place, and keeping a supply of emergency food and water on hand.
Overall, structure fires can be a major cause of wildfires, but there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk and prevent them from occurring. By being aware of the risks and taking appropriate precautions, we can help protect our homes and communities from the devastating effects of fast moving wildfires.
Categories: AK Fire Info, Alaska DNR - Division of Forestry (DOF), Fire Prevention, Firewise
Tags: Fire Prevention, Firewise, structure fires, wildland urban interfaceHow does a burning building start a wildland fire? Direct Contact Convection: Conductive: Radiation: How to protect wildlands from a structure or vehicle fire