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FIRE FACTS: Extinguishing vs. containment

September 2, 2023
News article

Before a fire can be "out," firefighters must contain and control it.

Another common question we've been asked is why our goal is containment instead of extinguishing or the fire being out. To be clear, we would love for the fire to be totally out! But, there is a process to getting to that point, and fires must be first contained, then controlled before being declared "out."

We've already covered containment, and the second step is the fire being controlled. A controlled fire means that the fire no longer threatens further spread or resource damage under foreseeable conditions.

For a fire to be declared out, there needs to be ZERO residual heat. The best way to reduce heat is with water! But, according to our Fire Behavior Analyst, we need 4-5" of rain to relieve the severe drought conditions on the Tiger Island Fire, and that much rain STILL may not put the fire out! Some quick math showed that 5 inches of rain would put millions of gallons of water on the fire area. A normal water drop from a helicopter is 600-1000 gallons, which shows you how much water is really needed!

Fires are generally not declared totally out until a "season-ending event" - a huge rainstorm or even snowfall in other states.

Aviation resources are an important piece of our firefighting operations. Helicopters allow us to drop water on areas that we can't access from the ground, or places it isn't safe to be on the ground. But they can't take the place of a good rain!