Wildfires Disrupt the U.S. Supply Chains

Posted on November 29, 2018

In recent years, wildfires that often occur on the west coast have been burning longer, hotter, and with increasing regularity as in years’ past with the Mendocino Complex fire breaking all previous records, which has resulted in increased damage to the supply chain (Wildfire tends in, 2018).  While wildfires are not new, the increased amount of damage that they are causing is resulting in massive delays and expenses in the supply chain (McKevitt, 2017).  Much of this results from several headquarters for companies that do tremendous shipping, such as Amazon, are located on the west coast (Cosgrove, 2018).

While wildfires are unable to be predicted in upwards of 85% of cases (Wildfire trends in, 2018), there are steps that companies can take to mitigate the losses associated with these events:

Track the Trends

            Companies that ship goods to or from the west coast need to be aware of peak fire season.  While there is no set timeframe, any time when potential fuel (grass and trees are common) is dry, there is high heat, and humidity is low there is an opportunity for wildfires, especially on the west coast (Wildfire trends in, 2018). 

Adapt as Needed

            Most of us are aware of the phrase “if things can go wrong, they will go wrong,” and that does seem to be especially true in logistics. When a wildfire is considered, this is often even more so. Companies need to take the time to implement a proactive response strategy when it comes to wildfires or any natural disaster (When disaster strikes, 2018).  This often requires use of an elastic approach to a supply chain, quickly altering abilities as needs arise and shift. 

Focus on Geographic Diversification

            Whenever it is possible, a company should not house all of its goods in one location (When disaster strikes, 2018).  Spreading out supply increases the chances of having the ability to moves goods from one point to another when one location might be impassible.  Depending on the scope of the operation in question, either domestic or global diversification is a necessity.

Implementation of Steps

            Taking the time to apply the steps mentioned is often too much for many organizations, especially when the organization is not a supply chain or logistics-based organization. Bearing this in mind, we recommend partnering with a logistics provider that is familiar with your industry and has a network that is capable of meeting the demands of your business. While it is difficult to do this in a number of cases, partnering with a strong 4PL organization can assist with this implementation. 4PL companies are made up of professionals and experts that know which carriers and partner carriers will be best equipped to service your needs when disaster strikes.

Contributor: Stephen Hull

About Allyn International

Allyn International is dedicated to providing high quality, customer centric services and solutions for the global marketplace. Allyn's core products include transportation management, logistics sourcing, freight forwarding, supply chain consulting, tax management and global trade compliance. Allyn clients range from small local businesses to Fortune 500 firms. Allyn conducts business in more than 20 languages and has extensive experience in both developed and emerging markets. Highly trained experts are positioned throughout North and South America, Europe and Asia. Allyn’s regional headquarters are strategically located in Fort Myers, Florida, U.S.A., Shanghai, P.R. China and Prague, Czech Republic. For more information, visit www.allynintl.com.


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McKevitt, J. (2017). Logistics suffers as wildfires ravage Southern California. Supply Chain

Dive. Retrieved from https://www.supplychaindive.com/news/california-fires-supply-chain-risk-shipping-delays/512540/

When disaster strikes, can supply chains weather the storm? (2018). The Wall Street Journal.

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Deadline. Retrieved from https://www.sciline.org/evidence-blog/wildfires

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