Wildland fires: are we in for a summer of fighting fires on the moors?
What’s the deal with wildland fires? As news of Northern Ireland’s firefighters battling wildfires hit the headlines last week, many firefighters will be thinking they’ve never been out to so many wildfire shouts.
We’ve seen a rise in wildfires around the world over the past few decades. Australia and the United States have both suffered repeated high-profile wildfires, with scientists suggesting that the number of large fires in the western US has doubled between 1984 and 2015.
In the UK we’re not even a decade into recognising wildfires as a big risk – they weren’t even on the National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies until 2012! Now they seem to be a common call-out for brigades with moorland and mountains in their patch.
Wildfires and climate change
Making the link between wildfires and climate change isn’t rocket science. Climate change means we’ll get more extremes of weather – hotter and drier, as well as colder and wetter.
In fact, new data shows that 2020 was Europe’s warmest year on record, and one of the three warmest years on record across the world. Europe’s temperature was 0.4oC higher than the last warmest year on record. And there were more sunshine hours recorded in Europe than any other year since records began in 1983.
According to the UK Met Office, April 2021 is on track to be one of the driest on record. We’ve had an average of 12.8mm of rain across the UK up to April 22, much lower than the April average of 72.53mm, according to Met Office figures.
So with warmer temperatures and less rain, it will be much easier for wildfires to take hold and spread as the ground is drier, and so is material they need for fuel. Given these stats, it’s no surprise we’re seeing more of them.
Wildfires – what’s the risk?
In the UK we usually get wildfires on the moors, which means they tend to be in more remote areas. This can mean a long trek from the appliance for fire crews to even get to the location of the fires. And that’s an even tougher ask when done in heavy kit.
Tackling wildfires takes huge amounts of resources, drawing fire crews away from towns and cities where there are more likely to be fires or road traffic collisions which endanger more people. It’s not where fire crews want to spend their time.
And they are tricky to tackle. As happened in Northern Ireland last week, firefighters can put out one wildfire, only for another to spring up nearby. And the radiant heat generated by wildfires can quickly lead to heat stress or heat exhaustion, especially if firefighters are working in warm temperatures too.
The best firefighter kit for wildfires
Who wants to be trekking up a mountain or over a moor in heavy kit if you don’t need that level of protection? Better to wear something lighter-weight, but which will still keep you safe from wildland risks.
That might not be the usual approach, but our wildland kit gives you all the protection you need to break with the tradition of wearing too-heavy, too-cumbersome suits to fight fires in the open air. It’s as much about a change of mindset as it is about a change of kit.
It might feel counter-intuitive to reach for lighter kit when you’ve a wildfire to fight. But all of our wildland firefighting garments conform to EN15614:2007, the European standard for wildland firefighting clothing. There is also a new British standard – BS ISO 16073-3:2019 – which our new wildland garments range conforms to.
Launching soon, we’ve made our next generation of wildland garments from a new stronger and more comfortable fabric. It’s lightweight and anti-abrasion, plus features glow-in-the-dark tape, because wildfires don’t just knock off for the night when darkness falls.
Like our previous range, it’s made from a single layer of lightweight yet strong fabric, providing the right level of protection without being too heavy to wear for long shifts out in the sticks.
The new product development team has also worked hard on the ergonomics of the new wildland range, creating products which make it easier to move around in and are more comfortable to wear. Just what fire crews need when spending long days fighting fires on moorland.
To find out more about our new range of multi-use stationwear, give one of the friendly team a call on +44 (0) 1332 341030.