Over the last 14 days in West Texas, temperatures climbed over 100 degrees and the last significant rain occurred in June, resulting in dry conditions ripe for wildfire ignition. Local fire departments responded to multiple fires sparked by welding in the last week.
Texas A&M Forest Service reminds everyone to be aware of the increased wildfire potential while using welding equipment and encourages preventative measures and maintenance to avoid ignitions.
Welding fires are caused by sparks, droplets of melted metal (hot slag), torch flames, combustible materials touching a hot piece of equipment, or flammable vapors igniting due to heat. Sparks can travel up to 35 feet at temperatures hotter than 2500°F and become lodged in cracks or holes, other small openings, clothing or any receptive fuel bed.
By taking the time to maintain equipment and prepare work areas, you can mitigate the threat of starting a wildfire. Welders should take the following precautions:
Investigate surroundings before welding begins
Wildfire prevention begins, first and foremost, with the welder. Clear away vegetation or any other combustible materials around the welding area and use a sprayer to wet down the area prior to starting welding operations.
Keep flammable materials far from welding areas
The sparks and expulsion of molten metal produced by welding and cutting processes are ready sources of ignition that can travel up to 35 feet from their source. Because sparks can travel so far, any combustible material in the immediate area can pose a significant fire hazard. As a result, all welding areas should be free of flammable materials.
Always keep a fire extinguisher nearby
It is important to be ready for any fire danger that may occur. As such, all areas where welding is being performed must have a fire extinguisher nearby. Fire extinguishers are very effective in handling the early stages of a fire. When utilized, portable fire extinguishers effectively eliminate 80% of fires.
For more information on fire prevention, please visit the Texas A&M Forest Service website at www.tfsweb.tamu.edu.