How Do Wildfires Affect Asphalt Roads?

December 4, 2018 1:22 am Published by

California has gone through some significant wildfires over the years, and 2018 was no exception. The most recent fires that swept through the state destroyed homes, businesses and wildlife in numerous cities. A lot of people wonder why it takes so long from cities to recover from disasters like the California wildfires, but the answer goes beyond rebuilding homes and stores. Fires can also have a devastating effect on infrastructure.

Asphalt is all over California, from parking lots to driveways to the major roads you drive on every day. But after a wildfire situation, asphalt in Santa Rosa, CA might be left in pieces.

Effects of fire

Asphalt is very sensitive to temperatures and can run into problems even in “normal” weather changes like cold and hot spells. Because of this sensitivity, fire poses a major problem for California and its asphalt roadways:

  • Cracking: Extreme heat can cause asphalt to crack, which allows water and debris to enter and erode the subgrade of the asphalt road. This leads to a vicious cycle in which more cracks and more degradation of the road appear until the asphalt is no longer stable.
  • Potholes or sinkholes: Unstable subgrade is what causes potholes; when the layer beneath the surface of an asphalt road is not stable, it can cave in when pressure is applied on top. While minor potholes aren’t always an inconvenience, this type of problem can lead to much larger issues like sinkholes.
  • Melting: Fires and the extreme heat they give off can also melt asphalt. The surfacing material gets soft and malleable even on hot summer days, so it stands no chance against the blazing heat of a wildfire. Sometimes, asphalt can re-harden after it gets soft or melts, but the melting process can cause big structural problems and cracks.
  • Ignition: Every mixture of asphalt is a little bit different, but many of the common asphalt ingredients are flammable. If asphalt gets too hot, it can go up in flames. This can be a major problem for firefighters who rely on roadways to “cut” the fire and prevent it from spreading.

Obviously, all of these problems lead to one thing: unstable and unusable asphalt roads in our communities. Fires can cause millions of dollars in damage and require entire cities to redo roads, which makes it harder for everyone to get around.

What can be done?

New technologies for asphalt in Santa Rosa, CA are emerging. New sealants are helping to protect asphalt from the effects of extreme heat, and new additives can help prevent fires on the roads.

Of course, if fires are common in your area, you may want to consider using concrete pavement, instead, since concrete stands up to heat better than asphalt.

If you have asphalt on your property, such as a driveway or parking lot, and your area has been affected by a fire, it may be wise to inspect the asphalt or have a professional do an inspection to see if the material is still sound. If it has been damaged, you’ll need to make an appointment to have the space repaved and sealed.

Call Sikes Asphalt Group Inc. to work with a premier asphalt contractor in Santa Rosa, CA. We do residential and commercial asphalt and concrete paving and removal, sealcoating and more.

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