Fire Fighting and Environmental Damage
Fires at a place of work can be extremely damaging on a number of levels, not only to property but also to the health, safety and wellbeing of human and animal life nearby, not to mention endangering the surrounding environment. This is because fires create multiple hazards, both directly from the fires themselves but also indirectly from efforts to tackle and extinguish the flames.
Heat and flames are probably the first things that come into a person's mind when they think of the danger and hazards associated with a fire. Whilst it is true that the flames do cause significant damage by burning materials or any organic matter that gets trapped in its way, the majority of deaths from fires actually occur as a result of the smoke produced. Not only can this smoke overcome those who are trapped in a building and are overcome by the smoke, suffering death from asphyxiation, but this smoke can also be extremely toxic if hazardous substances are burnt by the flames, which causes death or severe ill health to anyone who breathes it in.
As far as the environment is concerned, this too can be damaged by flames burning the surrounding plant life and animal habitats, as well as the damage caused by the smoke which can coat plants and vegetation and prevent a sufficient amount of photosynthesis from taking place which is needed for them to stay alive. Toxic substances which are spread by the smoke can also settle on the trees and plants and be absorbed through the leaves or roots and be detrimental to their survival and prosperity.
An often overlooked and forgotten about risk to the health and wellbeing of the local environment is that caused by the efforts to put out the fire. The most common way of extinguishing the fire is to spray huge quantities of water onto the flames. Whilst this may be an effective way to put out the fire, all of this water will seep into the ground and any nearby watercourses if containment measures are not put into place beforehand, carrying with it any harmful particles and substances that were on the site. The potential pollution and effects on the health of those living in and depending upon the water will greatly depend upon what matter and materials which have been burnt and affected by the fire, but the potential consequences on health can be devastating if it is particularly toxic and/or enters the water in a high concentration. In fact, even material which is not toxic can cause death to life forms if it finds its way into the water in a high enough concentration as it may block sunlight or limit the ability of fish to process water through their gills and obtain enough oxygen to breath.