In the United States, there are around 61,000 wildfires annually, with an average of 6.8 million acres burned. Without the proper protocol and forestry equipment used, it’s clear that forest fires can quickly get out of hand. Not only does this mean more forest fire aftermath to deal with, but it also means lots of precious resources destroyed.
So when a forest fire occurs, what exactly are the proper steps to clean up and ensure it doesn’t unintentionally spread? Read on to find out.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
First of all, everyone involved in the forest fire cleanup process should wear proper PPE. Without it, they may be subject to injuries to the head, eye, ears, hands, and more.
This means that personnel should wear hardhats, as these will protect them from any falling branches. This will prevent injuries like concussions, scrapes and cuts, and even burns. They should make sure to adjust the hardhat’s suspension accordingly to get a snug fit.
In addition, crews should wear eye protection like safety goggles. Again, branches, ashes, and other debris might fly around, which can cut, scrape, and burn the eyes. If any welding needs to be done, ensure that the safety goggles have light protection, too.
Masks should be worn to prevent personnel from inhaling harmful substances, such as the ash, carbon monoxide, and other smoke and debris.
To protect against the sounds of heavy equipment, personnel should wear earplugs or earmuffs. These can also lightly protect against debris.
Crews must also wear protective clothing that covers their arms and legs. It must be appropriate for the weather, especially if it’s extremely hot or cold. In addition, they should cover their extremities with work gloves and safety shoes that are appropriate for the environment.
How Forest Fire Crews Should Work
Injury can easily happen if crew members don’t clear debris strategically. A big part of forest fire cleanup safety is how the crews work.
In general, no single person should try and lift any objects that weigh over 50 pounds. For bulky things that weigh over that limit, personnel should work in teams of 2 or more.
Should objects be immovable by hand, then teams should use machinery instead.
Use a Forestry Bucket Truck
If the cleanup crew has noticed any branches, tree limbs, or other debris that’s stuck in either standing or downed trees, they might need some help reaching those things. A forestry bucket truck is perfect for the job, as it enables workers to get high enough to reach these things and remove them safely.
Note that if there are downed power lines, workers should not handle them. This includes if they believe the wires aren’t live. Always treat them as if they were live and do not handle them.
The only exception is if the crew are qualified electricians who can properly and safely inspect these lines, move them out of the way, and/or restore power. Otherwise, give the power provider a call so they can de-energize any lines in the area.
Other Useful Trucks
As expected, many damaged buildings, equipment, and other things will be left in the wake of a forest fire.
Depending on the extent of the damage and the objects that need to be removed, some other useful trucks to use include:
- Hooklift trucks
- Front-end loader trucks
- Cable handlers
- Cable placers
- Diggers with grapples
- Heavy haul tractors
- Personnel carriers
- Wood chippers
Whenever crew members operate these trucks, they must be careful around power lines. When they’re done with the equipment, they should also ensure the power’s completely off and prevent the truck from moving by parking it properly.
Take Precautions Near Power Lines
On that note, you need to take extra precautions if you believe you’re working near power lines, whether they’re standing or downed. Not only could a mistake injure crews, but it could also cause damage or even cause the fire to reignite.
When using equipment like a forestry bucket truck, ladder, or anything that can conduct electricity, ensure that the best-trained and most experienced personnel are assigned to them. This is because lots of care must be taken to avoid both standing and downed power lines. Otherwise, electrocution is a very real danger.
If the crews must use generators to power a building, then take the precaution of first switching off the main power breaker or fuse. Once it’s safely off, then they can start the generator. This will reduce the chances of both damage and electrocution.
How to Deal With Water
After a forest fire, chances are, there is leftover water from the measures taken to put active fires out. While much of it may evaporate on its own, there’s a good possibility that there are pools of water still around when cleanup crews come.
Unfortunately, much of the pooled water can be around power lines, electrical circuits, or equipment.
The first thing cleanup crews must do is turn off the main power breaker or fuse. Remove the equipment and do not try to operate it. Instead, have an electrician inspect it to ensure it’s safe to turn on and use.
In addition, if any areas in a building are flooded, do not enter unless it’s 100% confirmed that the power is off. To be safe, don’t touch equipment either.
Stop Forest Fires From Devastating Communities
After reading this article, you should now have a better idea of how to clean up after forest fires.
As you can see, not only do you need to equip cleanup crews in the right PPE, but they also need to be trained accordingly to handle the aftermath. Plus, they must have the proper equipment to safely and efficiently remove debris from the premises.
So make sure your staff is ready to handle the next forest fire. Make sure they’re well-equipped and prepared.
Are you interested in renting or purchasing forestry equipment? Then request a quote from us now. We’ll put together a plan specifically for your needs and budget.