A 16,000-acre brush fire meets a freeway in Southern California. Brush, grass, and smaller forest fires are common occurrences for many local fire departments across the country.(Photograph: AP Wide World/Mike Meadows)
By Marty Ahrens
From the October 2011 NFPA Journal®
Huge fires in the wildland-urban interface have made headlines in recent years, with stories about the federal and state agencies that battle to contain them. But local fire departments around the country are also engaged in fighting wildfire, responding to a range of smaller, but numerous, brush, grass, and forest fires.
During the five-year period of 2004–2008, local U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 356,800 brush, grass, and forest fires per year. On average, 976 brush, grass, or forest fires were reported per day. These incidents accounted for one-quarter (23 percent) of all fires reported to local fire departments. During this period, 4,800 buildings, on average, were involved annually in brush, grass, and forest fires handled by local departments.
The 356,800 natural vegetation fires reported per year include an average of:
- 145,400 (41 percent) brush or brush and grass mixture fires
- 132,000 (37 percent) grass fires
- 36,700 (10 percent) forest, woods, or wildland fires
- 42,700 (12 percent) natural vegetation fires that were not classified further.