Wildfires are becoming more common every year. It’s being discussed how to deal with that: Shall we use other tree species in the future? Shall we plan our forest and landscape management differently? For sure a lot could be done for long-term solutions. But when a fire occurs here and now, we need to put it out.
Firefighting – a new market for forest machine dealers
Disasters don’t necessarily mean something bad for everyone. The Covid-19 pandemic was gold for manufacturers of face masks. The 9/11 attack meant more business for manufacturers of security equipment for airports. Terrorist actions, in general, mean good business for the security sector. War is good for arms dealers … and so on.
After the vast wildfires in Sweden in 2014, many forest companies demanded that their contractors had firefighting equipment close by when operating under dry conditions. One major company here in Sweden demanded that every harvester group should have one cubic meter (1000 liters) of water at the landing, ready to use.
A friend of mine was critical of this. He said: “Should I go out to the landing, load up the water tank, and then approach the fire with my forwarder?! I don’t think so …”
Apart from water on site, the requirement for fire extinguishers was upgraded. Eventually, after the vast fires in Sweden in 2018 (four years after the 2014 fires!), Sweden invested in waterbombers. That was a major upgrade for Swedish wildfire fighting.
As you know, need is the mother of all inventions. Consequently, manufacturers and dealers of forestry equipment started to investigate firefighting.
Special equipment for firefighting
We didn’t wait long until dedicated equipment for fighting wildfires turned up. One of the first to present a firefighting package for forwarders was the Finnish manufacturer Ponsse. “Where there’s a fire, there may not always be a road” was their catchy tagline for this package which received lots of attention in forestry trade media.
More followed. Different solutions like fire extinguisher boxes and small water tanks, both self- and professionally made turned up. But also the same concept as Ponsse’s and Vimek’s were copied. Examples of that are the German manufacturer Welte and its Welte Tank Bag WTR, and Slovenian Bijol with the MFT 240 firefighter.
Use what you’ve got
The right equipment is of course always the best to use. But if you don’t have it? One positive phenomenon that has turned up in Sweden whenever there is a wildfire somewhere is that farmers with fertilizer tanks turn up.
It was started by some farmers who a few years ago spontaneously came to help a rescue team fighting a wildfire. Those tanks hold between 10 and 15 cubic meters of water (2600 – 4000 US gallons) which is far more than a firetruck carries. Today many farmers have equipped their tanks with special nozzles for firefighting to be prepared when it’s needed. A fire in your neighbor’s forest can soon become a fire in yours’s.
Don’t start the fire
The best firefighting is not to start a fire. Most wildfires (in Sweden) are started by private persons barbequing or throwing cigarettes away. A few fires are started by forest machines, such as the large wildfire in Sweden in 2014.
Personally, I think that common sense is the best tool to prevent wildfires. If you are in the forest during dry periods, you should beware. Don’t cause any sparks, don’t smoke, don’t make up fires anywhere, don’t hit a stone with your chainsaw or harvester head, and don’t have chains and tracks on your machine. If that advice is impossible to follow – don’t go to the forest!
A good thing during the dry 2018 in Sweden, was that as good as no forest machines were running in the whole country during the worst periods.
Apart from common sense, there is helping to get on the Net (where else?), e.g., weather forecasts. Here in Sweden, the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, MSB, provides fire risk analyses online and, in an app, free of charge. If you can’t find anything similar where you are, keep a good eye on the weather and use your common sense.