What does ‘contain’ mean when talking about wildfires?

Good Question: Contained does not mean the fire is out
What does ‘contain’ mean when talking about wildfires?
Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 6:52 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - This week, we’ve been talking a lot about wildfires.

Right now, a large fire is burning through Pogue Mountain.

It’s already scorched more than 100 acres.

And more than 1,000 acres were burning at Pilot Mountain. Officials say that is about 80 percent contained.

It’s really hard for firefighters to put out those large wildfires.

There are no roads leading up to it.

So their only options are to hike right into it or drop water from above.

People are worried about having to evacuate. They’re hoping things will dwindle down soon.

The State Forest Service says so far, about 30 percent of the Pogue Mountain fire has been contained.

And that’s what we want to ask about tonight - contained.

It’s a term we use a lot when we’re talking about wildfires.

But what does “contained” mean?

Good question.

Contained does not mean the fire is out. Containing is basically surrounding the fire with a control line so that it can’t spread any further.

A control line is a barrier.

Sometimes firefighters create these barriers by doing controlled burns so there isn’t any fuel for the fire once it reaches that area.

So 30 percent contained means 30 percent of the fire’s perimeter has been controlled.

That other 70 percent could still spread out farther. It doesn’t mean the fire is out.

Now there are some other important terms to know. Fully contained means the entire fire has been surrounded by a control line.

It might still be burning but it won’t spread.

Controlled means the fire has been contained and it’s burned out along those control lines.

Any flare-ups won’t break through that control line.

Firefighters don’t really track when a wildfire is extinguished so we don’t usually hear about that.

That’s because a wildfire can burn for months so it’s hard to know when it’s fully over.

Basically, it just gets to a point where all of the federal and state firefighters leave.

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