James Mountain, sales and marketing director at Fire Shield Systems, discusses the prominent fire risks for the forestry industry and shares his top tips for best practice in mitigating these.

WHEN working with highly combustible materials such as wood, sawdust and dry vegetation, there are a wide range of fire risks. As such, for the forestry industry, the risk of fire is well understood.

In forestry, the fundamental material for continued business operations presents myriad fire risks. Wood is highly flammable, so it’s essential to have the right protection measures in place to reduce fire risks.

With fires within the industry becoming all the more common, the importance of fire safety continues to heighten.

So, what are the key risks for the forestry industry and how can businesses protect their teams and assets effectively?


Harsh environment – with the vast majority of the industry being based outside, it is often subject to harsh weather conditions. Strong winds and high temperatures can result in heightened fire risks, with the two weather conditions proving to be a detrimental combination for the ignition and spreading of fire.

Vehicles – vehicles and machinery are often essential for sustained operations in the forestry industry, and often these vehicles carry large amounts of flammable oils and fuels, which have the potential to ignite any surrounding combustible materials.

READ MORE: WATCH: Ponsse introduces firefighting system for forwarders

Build-up of debris in machinery – the nature of forestry operations can often mean that machinery is subject to the build-up of dust and other debris. Dust can be highly flammable and can cause clogging in machinery, which can lead to overheating.

Highly combustible materials – the primary function of the forestry industry is working with highly flammable materials, such as wood, and forests are often surrounded by dry crops, chaff and straw.


Forestry Journal:


The Forestry Commission details how to create a forest management plan to reduce fire risk. It should include details such as the objectives you are hoping to achieve, for example, ‘to decrease the number of fire incidents over a certain period of time’; the risks faced within the forest; fuel sources; and details of who could be harmed in the event of a fire.

By creating a forest management plan, you can identify all of the potential risks and put the appropriate measures into place to actively reduce these.


Potential issues can be identified and resolved during regular maintenance. If unmonitored, certain issues could result in overheating, which has the potential to act as an ignition source for fire.

In addition, as forestry operations often contribute to the build-up of dust in machinery, regular cleaning of equipment can ensure that dust is removed, mitigating its associated fire risks.


Vegetation should be managed with the intention of preventing fuel build-up. It should involve creating a pattern in vegetation, which reduces fire risk and allows for the extinguishing of fire, rather than relying on other methods such as fire breaks.

In existing forests and woodlands, fire risks can be reduced through vegetation treatments such as thinning and felling and linking naturally fire-resilient features, such as rivers and wetlands, to high-risk areas.

READ MORE: Water cannon versus bark beetle

For new forests and woodlands, or if you are restructuring an existing forest, fire risk can be reduced by selecting fire-resilient vegetation to support fire breaks or fire belts.


Fire breaks and fire belts can act as barriers to stop or slow the propagation of a fire. Fire breaks are gaps in vegetation, or other combustible materials, that aim to reduce the risk of fire spreading. Fire belts are strips of woodland that are made from fire-resistant species, with the same aim.

Fire breaks and belts should be planned to form an interconnected network which surrounds a particularly high-risk area of woodland. They can be located at critical points, to be used to prevent extreme fire spreading, or created alongside other fire-resistant features such as rivers or wetlands.


Each forest is unique, with varying purposes, shapes and sizes. As such, to reduce its fire risk effectively, it’s crucial to select the right fire-detection and -suppression solution for your unique circumstances. Your forest management plan should inform which fire-suppression solution is right for your woodland.

For advice or support in selecting the right fire-detection and -suppression solution for your business, visit www.fireshieldsystemsltd.co.uk or call 0800 975 5767.

Forestry Journal remains dedicated to bringing you all the latest news and views from across our industry, plus up-to-date information on the impacts of COVID-19.

Please support us by subscribing to our print edition, delivered direct to your door, from as little at £75 for 1 year – or consider a digital subscription from just £1 for 3 months.

To arrange, follow this link: https://www.forestryjournal.co.uk/subscribe/

Thanks – and stay safe.