Responding to a burning challenge on Sappi’s plantations

Climate change has exacerbated the potential for forest fires. At Sappi, we practise sustainable forestry with fire risk management systems in place to ensure security of fibre supply.

As you'll read here, the comprehensive fire risk management system we've developed at Sappi incorporates risk assessments, monthly compliance checks, management procedures, standards and more. Fire safety and protection is a top priority for all of us.

Mapping risks

Before each fire season, fuel load maps are prepared for all districts to assist in the management of fuel loads and identification of major risks. The assessment of fuel load status, as well as the age and genus of the crop (pines or eucalypts) provides the forester and incident commander with a tool to calculate the damage potential. This facilitates an average risk rating for use in strategic planning, enabling our foresters to focus resources in the smartest places. Part of this exercise results in risk rating maps to plan fire protection systems and execute fire response activities.

Tracking fire danger

Each plantation has a weather monitoring station strategically placed to keep track of the fire danger index (FDI). The FDI data is reported automatically using a mobile phone or through the Vital Fire Weather database with consolidated input from different landowners. Vital Fire Weather then sends alerts via SMS and email. When the FDI reaches a certain level, all aerial and ground firefighting resources are placed in strategic positions, all airstrips are manned and detection centres are instructed to activate aircraft immediately should a fire be detected within or near our plantations.

Training firefighters

Fire competitions and simulated fire training are conducted at each plantation. During simulated fire training, we create realistic fire incident scenarios without the use of real fire to test and enforce systems and procedures. These simulations allow command and ground teams to understand their respective roles, systems and the documentation that may be required during wildfire scenarios.

Aligning with our commitment to life on land

While fires do occur naturally in the wild, uncontrolled wildfires can have devastating consequences, including loss of life and injuries, job losses, the destruction of livelihoods, compromised food security, as well as destruction of infrastructure, the environment and associated biodiversity. Our focused, comprehensive response to wildfire aligns with our commitment to SDG15: Life on Land and to a thriving world.