Biomass harvesting: how forest thinning can help prevent wildfires
Every year, wildfires plague the nation. Once there’s an ignition source, dry foliage in country areas can quickly go up in flames, spreading through woodlands or grasslands quickly. While some wildfires can be small, others can be devastating and blaze through thousands of acres.
While there’s no way to predict where wildfires may start, there are ways to minimize the damage of risk-prone areas. One great way to reduce wildfire hazards is biomass harvesting.
In this blog, we’ll discuss wildfires, what causes them, and how biomass harvesting can help.
What Starts Wildfires?
Wildfires occur because of a number of causes, both natural and human-related. Something as simple as a lit cigarette can start a wildfire if it’s dropped into dry brush or leaves. Fires can also be started by equipment sparks, electric arcs from power lines, and-of course-arson.
But while human sources are often the cause of a wildfire, wildfires can also occur naturally. They can be started by spontaneous combustion, lightning, and volcanic eruption. And occasionally, they can be caused by sparks created when falling rocks knock against each other.
What Determines How Severe a Wildfire Is?
The size and seriousness of a wildfire relies on three things: topography, weather, and vegetation. As humans, we can’t necessarily change the topography of the area, and the weather is out of our control. But the arrangement and density of the vegetation can be carefully controlled and monitored.
What Is Biomass Harvesting?
Biomass harvesting is a way to regulate risky forest vegetation and minimize wildfire risks. Essentially, biomass harvesting thins out woodlands and forests, removing foliage that can further facilitate the spread of a wildfire. Small diameter trees or damaged trees are removed, and other plants may be taken out to reduce forest density.
How Does Biomass Harvesting Prevent Wildfires?
Biomass harvesting essentially eliminates greenery that helps fires spread. Low, thin foliage burns easily, and fire uses the varying heights of small diameter trees and plants to travel up into the more vulnerable areas of tall trees.
If the smaller vegetation is fairly dense throughout the forest, wildfires can easily jump from one plant or little sapling to the next, burning through acres quickly. Clearing out these small plants and trees with biomass harvesting can make it more difficult for a fire to spread, leading to smaller wildfires around the nation.
What Benefits Come From Fire Prevention?
Wildfires can be devastating, and they can also be extremely dangerous for those fighting them. Exposing the human body to that much heat can take its toll, and participating firefighters can experience a variety of problems, including exhaustion, heat stroke, headaches, disorientation, nausea, and dehydration.
They can also sustain other injuries while fighting woodland fires, such as bruises, animal bites, and cuts. Minimizing a wildfire’s potential can help keep firefighters safe and reduce their exposure to such harmful conditions.
If wildfires grow out of hand, they can also destroy homes and other structures as they blaze through acres and acres of land. Hundreds of homes can be engulfed by wildfire, leaving many families homeless without any belongings. Clearing excess undergrowth and small diameter trees can protect these homes and families by discouraging the spread of fires that do occur.
Furthermore, through fire prevention, biomass harvesting can save money on a regional, county, or local level. Fighting wildfires is a costly necessity. In 2013, the cost of national wildfire suppression came to about $3.5 billion. Plus, the cost of replacing homes and other structures that are overtaken by flames adds up quickly.
Is Biomass Harvesting Harmful for Our Forests?
While fire prevention can be very advantageous for our nation and its citizens, is biomass harvesting good for the forests?
When forests are overstocked, or too dense, it can actually affect the health of the woodland. Many forests in America are denser now than they were 100 years ago, and an overcrowded forest makes it difficult for trees to get the nutrients they need to grow strong and stay healthy.
Water and minerals are spread thinly throughout the woodland, and with more trees comes more shade, making it difficult for all trees to get the sunlight they need. After forest health begins to decline, the trees and other plants become more susceptible to pest infestations and disease because they lack the strength to fight off these threats.
Clearing the excess greenery and smaller plants can not only minimize the spread of wildfire, but it can also help trees rebuild their strength and encourage forest health. And if more water is opened up for the existing trees, they can stay hydrated and avoid drought conditions. Dry, drought-affected trees are more likely to burn in a forest fire.
Biomass harvesting can provide a number of benefits for our nation’s trees, fire prevention being chief among them. If forest density is properly diminished, wildfires can more easily be controlled, better protecting woodlands, people, and structures.
If you take part in biomass harvesting and want to turn the removed foliage into usable fuel, trust in Uzelac Industries Inc. We can help you get the equipment you need to turn the extracted vegetation into efficient biofuel.