With extended spells of dry weather and too-little rainfall, drought is in the news. Those who live in drought-prone terrain know that persistent dry vegetation can pose a risk to the structures they surround.
But even if you live in a relatively moist area, water conservation, healthy landscapes, and wildfire-risk are valuable considerations to keep in mind.
To understand the effects of drought around structures, it’s important to understand what drought does to vegetation, where it can have the most impact on your property, and what you can do about it now.
In part 1, we’ll explore how drought impacts vegetation and fire risk. In part 2 on Monday, we’ll explain the Firewise principle solutions you can employ to make a difference.
What Does Drought Do?
Simply put, drought effects the moisture levels in living and dead vegetation that are in your surrounding environment and around structures. The rate of change on moisture is measured in unit-hours for grasses, small-diameter trees, and wider logs.
As moisture decreases, the probability that vegetation will ignite and burn more rapidly increases. In forestry terms, such vegetation is then referred to as “fuel.”
Moisture in live vegetation is measured by weighing a piece of the plant and then kiln drying that same piece and weighing it again.
The difference indicates the vegetation’s current “fuel moisture” and this figure, combined with wind, temperature, and relative humidity, helps to determine “Red Flag Warnings” that you may hear of in the news.
Persistent drought stresses trees and plants, making them more susceptible to fire, insects, and disease because they lack the internal moisture to counter these threats.
Drought also is a factor in the “full-year fire season.” A lack of moisture in warmer months stresses vegetation and leaves it dry when it enters natural dormancy during winter months.
Check back on Monday when Part 2 will explain the solutions you can employ to make a difference.
Read previous posts in the Firewise How-To blog series.
Photo Credit: New Jersey Forest Fire Service; NWCG Photo Gallery