Wildfire Safety: PPE For Controlled Burns

Wildfire Safety: PPE For Controlled Burns

Nearly 85 percent of wildland fires in the United States are caused by humans.1 They’re  usually the result of campfires left unattended, burning of debris, equipment use and malfunctions, negligently discarded cigarettes, and intentional acts of arson. The remainder of wildland fires are naturally occurring. 

To help reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, regularly prescribed fires are conducted. Also known as controlled burns, these planned fires help reduce the amount of leaf litter, pine needles, shrubs and other fuels in the forest.2 Prescribed fires also help reduce hazardous fuel loads near developed areas by managing landscapes and restoring natural woodlands.3 

Who executes prescribed burns?

Incident management experts from The U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, are responsible for controlled burns. They’ve developed a mobilization strategy for prescribed burns, specifically addressing Wildfire Crisis Strategy landscapes and across regional boundaries.4

These strategies require professional site evaluations to assess factors like air temperature, as the higher the temperature the quicker the combustion takes place. They also evaluate wind by looking at the speed and direction of flow as it impacts smoke dispersion and visibility. Relative humidity and precipitation are also taken into account since increased moisture can inhibit burns, yet if it’s too dry, it can damage the root ecosystems.5 The goal is to ensure the safety of the prescribed fire and that it doesn’t get out of hand.  

Before the Burn

When preparing for prescribed burns, it’s important to use the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). During preparation, debris like leaf litter is raked and moved by hand and low branches are often cut with chainsaws and moved. It’s essential to protect your head, hands, eyes, and ears from hazards.  

Examples of PPE needed are hardhats to help protect from dropping branches, hearing protection to help reduce the sound heard from loud chainsaws, cut or impact protective gloves  and safety eyewear for handling and strategically placing loose debris in a burn pattern.  

During the Burn

While executing the prescribed fires, the professionals will start the ignition according to both the fire management plan and a prescribed burn plan. While beginning the ignition, it’s essential they have PPE like fire retardant clothes, safety eyewear and gloves as they are working with items like drip torches that contain flammable fluids. While the burn is progressing, it’s important to continuously monitor the environment, as any change can cause the burn to be called off or it can cause the burn to get out of control. 

After the Burn

While the burn is ending, it’s critical to ensure the fire is completely out; smoldering embers can quickly reignite or be blown into neighboring areas and start new wildfires. Typically, all fields adjacent to the burn area are checked at least twice to ensure the fire hasn’t escaped. Smoldering debris and hot embers will be drenched with water to ensure the fire is completely out. Repeat checks of the area are also necessary, especially if conditions have turned windy and dry.6 To ensure safety, PPE like safety eyewear, protective shoes, hardhats are needed, and respiratory protection may be needed for smoke inhalation.

Honeywell’s commitment to safety

Honeywell has a long-standing commitment to worker safety in a variety of industries. We offer a wide range of high quality PPE, including safety gloves, eye protection, hearing protection, respiratory protection and more. To learn more about the products and services we offer, visit our website, or contact us today.     

For more information, visit www.sps.honeywell.com








Copyright © 2023 Honeywell International Inc.  All rights reserved.