Wildfire season starts during the dry and windy months of February and typically lasts through May. Changes in yearly weather patterns can make the season earlier, later or longer.
Georgia averages over 8,000 wildfires annually with an average size of four to five acres per fire. For a fire to burn, three elements are necessary – fuel, heat and oxygen. The Georgia Forestry Commission says that careless debris burning is the leading cause of wildfires across the state.
Georgia Forestry Commission firefighters are known as rangers and are ready to respond, as needed, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. Initially, one or two rangers will respond to a wildfire with a tractor-plow unit, but if more are needed, additional crews and resources will be dispatched from the Incident Command System. A tractor-plow will be unloaded and used to create a firebreak around the fire. Firebreaks are four to five feet wide and are crucial because they separate the fire from additional fuel. Unknown to many, the Georgia Forestry Commission employs pilots to help them fight fires from the sky.
During fire season months, if the weather conditions are favorable, rangers use air patrols as the method of choice for detection. Fire towers, once the primary method of wildfire detection, are still located strategically throughout the state and staffed as conditions warrant increased detection efforts.
Chief Pilot Clay Chatham says that it “gives pilots the chance to attack the fire quickly, especially in areas where access is limited. We work in a lot of very, very rural areas and in Georgia, there’s a lot of places that take an hour to get to just because of their remoteness so we can attack that fire and start slowing it down, even suppress it completely before the firefighters arrive on the scene.”
Whether on the ground or in the air, rangers say that early detection of wildfires makes the difference in effective wildfire suppression.
Rangers are trained to go into the fire and observe it, look to see what’s happening and if it’s safe so that life and property are protected.
Pilots help rangers have tactical advantage and help provide a safety net for firefighters on the ground fighting the flames.
When rangers aren’t busy fighting fire, they’re educating people on fire prevention.
The Georgia Forestry Association applauds the work of the Georgia Forestry Commission to consistently protect its members forestland through its firefighting program. This article was originally published by WXGA on Feb. 23, 2016. Click here to view the full article on wxga.tv. Click here to learn more about the Georgia Forestry Commission.