Impact of Wildfires on Asphalt

Wildfire hazard

Living on the West Coast, we have a lot of experience with wildfires and their after-effects. While fires can contribute to positive environmental change, the raging wildfires that we’ve been experiencing in recent years have certainly taken a toll on our forests, air, and roads. Asphalt is reasonably resistant to heat in normal conditions. That’s why we don’t see roads melting every summer. But wildfires bring a whole other level of damage that asphalt can’t endure long term. From cracking patterns to dangerous pollutants, read on to learn how wildfires affect the roads around us.


When disaster strikes, rescue vehicles are dispatched. Unfortunately, the combination of extreme heat and heavy vehicle traffic puts a lot of stress on the pavement, making it crack. You might hear this cracking pattern called alligator cracks. It happens when the asphalt has more weight than it was designed to handle. These narrow, crosshatch cracks can be treated to prevent further damage, but if the damage gets bad enough, the entire area will have to be re-paved. The damage grows if you don’t repair or replace the affected asphalt.


Cracks in asphalt are easily fixed, but what happens if you leave them? Especially with cracks like those mentioned above, it’s imperative to get the area repaired quickly. This can be difficult with wildfire conditions, as the damage could happen faster than crews can repair it. When cracks are left untreated, water seeps in and degrades the integrity of the asphalt. The erosion of the lower layers of asphalt makes way for the formation of potholes. The water may be from surrounding water sources, rain, or even the firefighter’s efforts, but they all lead down the same (pot)hole.


As has already been stated, asphalt is generally heat-tolerant. Extreme heat, however, like that of wildfires, can melt asphalt. You won’t have to deal with a highway of lava in addition to the wildfire, but the wildfire will forever alter the surface of the asphalt. The heat changes the chemical makeup of the asphalt, creating damage that cannot be undone. Deformities can include bumps and cracks, reducing any chance of a smooth ride and contributing to further damage if left untreated.


A major effect of wildfires is the pollutants released into the air. Asphalt releases chemicals anytime it’s heated, but wildfire temperatures increase the magnitude and severity of emissions, not to mention the environmental effects of asphalt pollutants. Even when the asphalt is merely in the sun, it releases some chemicals. So, imagine how severe the effects can be in wildfire conditions.


As summer is starting to ramp up, it’s essential to prepare for disaster to strike. We’ve learned over the years that wildfires have lasting effects on our health, our environment, and our well-being. So you should get your asphalt repaired or replaced earlier rather than later. Properly installed and maintained asphalt will be safer and tougher against extreme conditions. Call Aegis Asphalt Construction for a free estimate before things start heating up.