Reducing fire risks in forestry

After a long summer, grasses, shrubs, and trees have had several months to dry out, creating ample fuel for wildfires by the time autumn arrives. This poses one of many fire risks for the forestry industry. But regardless of season, the world has seen heightened fire activity already this year, including record-breaking burns across Canada, catastrophic fires in Hawaii, and illness-inducing blazes across Indonesia


Here, we outline other forestry-specific fire risks, detail ways to avoid them, and discuss the role that a fire suppression system plays in this.


Forestry fire risks and how to avoid them

Forestry is a challenging industry, with machines running at high temperatures and carrying large amounts of flammable materials. This puts mobile plant at an increased risk of fire.


The latest data on forest fires shows that they’re becoming more widespread, burning nearly twice as much tree cover today as they did 20 years ago. Moreover, in the Northern hemisphere, most fires are caused by human activity, such as burning rubbish and debris, industrial accidents, and agricultural overspill. This highlights the forestry industry’s need to take all necessary fire safety precautions.


Some additional fire risks associated with the industry include:


Mechanical equipment

The use of heavy mobile plant, machinery, and equipment for logging operations can generate sparks and heat, especially in dry conditions. These sparks can ignite nearby flammable materials, resulting in fires that may spread quickly.


Risk-reducing steps:

  • Undergo a Fire Hazard Identification process to assess the likelihood, severity, and impact of a fire occurring on a vehicle.
  • Have mobile plant fire suppression systems installed wherever relevant.
  • Ensure machines and systems are regularly serviced and maintained to minimise the risk of sparks or mechanical failures.
  • Equip machinery with spark arrestors to prevent sparks from escaping the exhaust system.
  • Avoid operating machinery during dry and windy conditions, especially in areas with high fire risk.


Drying and dead vegetation

Dead trees, fallen leaves, and dry vegetation can act as fuel for fires. If these materials are not properly managed and removed, they can contribute to the rapid spread of forest fires.


How to reduce this risk:

  • Implement regular vegetation management practices to remove dead and dry materials.
  • Create fuel breaks / fire breaks by strategically removing vegetation to limit the spread of fires.
  • Utilise controlled burns to reduce fuel loads in a controlled manner.


Slash and debris burning

After logging operations, branches, tops, and other debris are often left on the forest floor. If these materials are burned without proper control and monitoring, the fire can quickly get out of hand and spread to surrounding vegetation, leading to unintended forest fires. As a result, almost all fires that occur in the tropics are started by people, rather than sparked by natural ignition sources like lightning strikes. 


Risk-reducing steps:

  • Use alternative methods for debris disposal, such as chipping or mulching.
  • If burning is necessary, do it under controlled conditions with proper permits, weather monitoring, and firefighting equipment on standby.
  • Maintain clear zones around burning sites to prevent fires from spreading.


Lack of fire management and preparedness

Inadequate fire management plans, training, and preparedness can hinder the ability to respond effectively to fires when they occur.


How to reduce this risk:

  • Develop comprehensive fire management plans that cover prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery.
  • Conduct regular training for forestry workers on fire prevention, safety, and firefighting techniques.
  • Book personnel onto fire suppression system operator training.
  • Find a fire suppression system supplier with field engineers that can respond to emergencies within 24 hours to get machinery back in action, minimising downtime.
  • Collaborate with local fire departments and other emergency services to ensure effective communication and coordination.


Preventing forest fires with fire suppression systems

Without fast detection and actuation, a fire can quickly spread and grow out of control, especially in a forest. Our mobile plant fire suppression systems use electronic Linear Heat Detection to offer the fast and reliable fire detection that’s essential for such a high-risk environment. This detection technology also provides the best protection against false discharges commonly seen in other systems.


We recommend our dual agent fire suppression systems for machines working in forestry. These systems combine dry chemical and wet chemical suppression agents to provide rapid fire knock-down and cooling of superheated components, reducing the risk of fire reignition. The Ardent Dual Agent Fire Protection System is designed to offer the most reliable fire protection, with varying system sizes to accommodate a variety of machines.

To learn more about how Ardent helps clients prevent potentially catastrophic fires, read our case studies, sign up to our newsletter, or get in touch for more information.