The most effective way to stop forest fires is to prevent them before they begin using techniques such as forest thinning and prescribed burns. Once a forest fire has started, firefighters remove potential fuel in the path of the fire, creating what is known as a firebreak.
Firefighters deploy a number of technologies that can help them prevent and plan for forest fires. Computer models are used to predict how wildfires move and behave with the help of satellite imagery acquired from Landsat Earth-observing satellites. These models account for various factors such as the current weather, topography and potential fuel. In 2013, the first Predator drone was used to gather information to help firefighters determine how to allocate firefighting resources.
Fire trucks, firefighters, bulldozers and aircraft are some of the typical resources used in fighting forest fires. The firefighters create firebreaks by removing dry brush and grass from strips of land near the fire. In some cases, they actually create fires themselves to remove fuel in a controlled burn technique known as backfiring. Aircraft such as helicopters are used to drop water and suppressant foam on the fire, while air tankers often drop flame-retardant chemicals.
Forest fires are a natural part of the ecological cycle, and many plants actually require fire to reproduce. This means that controlled burns can actually help the environment as well as prevent larger disasters.