Wildfire season is upon us and with it comes the need for increased safety precautions on the jobsite. The past two years we’ve experienced intense wildfire seasons in the Pacific Northwest and at MRD we do everything we can to prevent forest fires.

In addition to having fire tools on our trucks and equipment at all times, we also bring fire trailers with us to every jobsite. These trailers have a pump ready to operate and are capable of providing a discharge of no less than 20 gallons per minute at 115 psi at pump level. We check humidity levels every hour and cease all operations when the humidity drops below 30% and start our fire watch. Our teams monitor the temperature, humidity and wind speed on every jobsite, and keep track of the daily Industrial Fire Precaution Level (IFPL) and corresponding watchman requirements.

Fire Watch

A fire watch is a person or team assigned to observe the jobsite and react to any possible hazards. They must be physically capable and experienced to operate firefighting equipment. The fire watch is required to remain on the jobsite after all power-driven machinery has been shutdown for the day or after blasting operations are completed. Fire watch is also on duty during any breaks in the operation. Our watch team remains onsite for the time required by the current IFPL level. For example, for IFPL three “Partial Shutdown” the fire watch must remain on site for three hours after completion of operations in Oregon and one hour in Washington.

In Case of a Fire

Upon discovery of a fire, fire watch personnel immediately report it to the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) or Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF). We then report to the land owner to summon any necessary firefighting assistance. The fire watch will describe intended fire suppression activities and agree on a checking system. We will describe equipment or resources needed (helicopter, fire truck, etc.) and current fire conditions (size, terrain, type of fuel, rate of spread, weather). After determining a safety zone and escape route that will not be cut off if the fire increases or changes direction, fire watch will immediately proceed to control and extinguish the fire, consistent with firefighting training and safety.

As you can see, fire watch is a critical role in our organization and a job we do not take lightly. With proper communication and diligence, we will keep our Pacific Northwest forests safe and thriving during these dry summer months.

Best Management Practices for Forest Operations Checklist:

– Check fire precaution levels daily and know your fire zone
– Review every customer’s fire plan and be ready to report a fire
– Monitor relative humidity hourly and shut down operations when it drops below 30
– Know your location (road name, legal description and GPS coordinates) and be able to communicate good directions to your location
– Know where the best phone service is located
– Inspect fire equipment daily and replace any missing shovels, axes or fire extinguishers
– Keep all equipment clean of flammable material and debris
– Clean out spark arrester ports
– Inspect hydraulic and fuel lines and replace them if needed
– Inspect electrical wiring and circuit breakers and keep them in good working order according to manufacturer specifications
– Where possible, and when not in use, park equipment overnight in location clear of flammable material
– When starting a hole in grassy or brushy areas, first clear the area of debris and soak the ground with water before making contact with the drill bit
– Rotate the drill steel into the overburden without the use of the hammer to reduce any sparking
– Do not place detonators in grass or near wooded debris
– Clear grass and wooded debris away from the detonators and bury the detonators in the areas of concern

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