Wildfires: containment versus control

May 26, 2013

With wildfire season upon us, it’s important to understand a key term you’ll hear a lot of -- how much of a fire is “contained.” 

“When we say ‘contained,’ we still have fire crews out there who will monitor the fire and make sure that we can hold that line, so that’s very different than calling it ‘controlled,’" said Carrie Dennett, fire prevention officer for Arizona State Forestry. "When we call a fire ‘controlled,’ that means we can pack up and go home, the fire’s out. You will see fires that are 100 percent contained for a while and not considered controlled for maybe weeks, maybe months afterward.”

Crews calculate what percentage of a fire is contained by simple math -- they look at the square footage of the entire wildfire, and how much of it has been stopped by natural or manmade barriers.

But Dennett said it’s important to remember that a change in conditions could lead to a very quick change in containment.

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