So far in 2015, wildfires have burnt more than 5.9 million acres of land, and the wildfire season has just entered the historically peak months: August and September.
California Governor Jerry Brown met in early August with crews of firefighters who are working 24-hour shifts to combat the spreading fires. In a news conference, he said California is stricken by drought, and it’s hotter and drier than ever before. The result is more severe fires and an extended fire season, according to the Associated Press.
In other vulnerable states, governors have placed restrictions on citizens’ water usage as a proactive approach to managing the limited supplies of water. Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval created the Nevada Drought Forum in April 2015 to bring together water managers and other stakeholders to deal with policy needs, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. By July 2015, Oregon Governor Kate Brown had declared drought emergencies for two-thirds of Oregon’s counties, KTVZ.com reported.
The scarcity of water in the West makes the management of both water supply and water quality crucial. Western Governors are well aware of the interrelatedness of forest health, wildlife, energy and water policy, and they recognize that drought has serious implications for each of these issues.James D. Ogsbury, Executive Director, Western Governors’ Association
Fighting Wildfires with Technology
At the most basic level, state and local governments are investing in the basic necessities of fighting fires, such as hoses, fire-resistant apparel and fire trucks. But they also have tapped information technology solutions to manage fire operations, dispatch information and track the paths of massive wildfires with utmost precision.
Times of San Diego reports that San Diego State University has combined IT and sandboxes to help firefighters control wildfires. SDSU is using visualization software to project a virtual map over the mountains and ravines in the sandbox. A virtual fire is started in the sandbox, and the software analyzes data on topography, the time of day, wind speeds and direction, and the fuel types to predict where and how the fire is likely to spread. SDSU partnered with SimTable to develop and test the software. An app that firefighters could pull up on their phones is also planned. “We’re hoping to put this into the hands of first responders who can use it to save lives and structures,” said Lance Larson, Assistant Director in the SDSU graduate program in homeland security.
According to Onvia’s Project Center, state and local governments are investing in IT to help fight wildfires.
Landscaping Contractors Can Help Fight Wildfires Too
Wildfires consume land and burn away vegetation lying in its wake. There are techniques for repairing and also preventing wildfires that require landscaping and contractors in the industry can help. In Onvia’s Project Center, from January to July 2015, state and local governments released 323 solicitations for specialty services, such as landscaping and tree services related to wildfire fighting and prevention.
Planning Ahead for Wildfires
Once the wildfire season is over, typically in November, officials are already thinking about next season and issuing contracts to help them prepare.
Onvia’s Spending Forecast Center shows that more than 300 state and local government budgets have proposed or adopted programs to deal with wildfires in the next few years.
Contractors in Multiple Industries Can Win in Wildfire-Related Contracts
While no one can prevent all wildfires, contractors in many industries are playing a role in fighting the blazes, prevention efforts and clean-up. Industrial suppliers, public safety service providers, and operations and maintenance companies are still critical for stopping fires from spreading too far. Large-scale landscapers have many business prospects for post-seasonal work, and IT software companies can offer innovative software to government agencies to help them operate more efficiently. Furthermore, planning ahead is key and agencies are always looking for help to prevent disasters; consulting firms can support state and local agencies as they strategize on ways to restrain future wildfires in the coming drought seasons.