Wildfires claim forests, woodlands, and rainforests worldwide. How much damage is being done? Can we stop them? How are these areas recovering?
Fire – Specifically Wildfires. Are devastating occurrences. With record breaking wildfires in 2020, destroying forest lands and even complete towns in the U.S., along with the burning of the rainforests in Brazil and other areas, what should we know about these fires?
There are two main causes of wildfires: Natural Causes and Human Induced Causes.
The Natural Causes of Wildfires are:
Lightning Strikes/Dry Lightning.
Lightning from thunderstorms or Dry Lightning where there is no precipitation during this type of lightning. When lightning strikes a tree, it can produce a spark that can start a fire.
Dry climatic conditions or drought can lead to wildfires. During this time, there is little moisture in the air and on the ground, and the vegetation also dries up. This makes conditions ideal for starting a fire.
Volcanic activity/eruptions are highly destructive. One of the ill-effects of such events includes wildfires. Hot burning lava from a volcano can reach forests, consuming vegetation and spreading to areas not directly exposed to the lava.
The Human Induced Causes include:
Shifting Cultivation/Slash & Burn
The Slash & Burn method or shifting agriculture involve the intentional lighting of wildfires by humans. Such fires are lit to clear the land of vegetation so that cultivation can be carried out in the cleared space. As the land becomes infertile due to over-farming or other improper farming practices, the people shift to newer locations where they can carry repeat the act. This is a practice that is occurring in the Rainforest of Brazil (and other regions), that is causing widespread damage to these areas that are important to the planet.
A number of wildfires are caused by this intentional act of people to gain something out of the disaster. People might set fire to their own property to gain money from insurance, the thrill of causing an emergency situation, or revenge. These fires could become uncontrollable and destroy large areas of forests and spread to human occupied areas.
Cast-away cigarette butts that are still burning are one of the top causes of wildfires. It is very important for smokers to behave responsibly to ensure that a negligence on their part does not cause an adverse impact on the environment.
Fireworks displays must be held at safe locations by professionals (with fire department on standby at the location). Yes, even professionals can have accidents! Often, an amateur display can lead to devastating consequences. If there is even a little chance that fireworks might start a wildfire at a particular venue, the activity must be cancelled.
Campfires are an integral part of camping activity. However, when such fires are not properly started or maintained, they might lead to wildfires. It is recommended that campfires are lit in areas where the land is clear of vegetation. After the need for the fire is over, it must be completely extinguished. Always check to make sure that the area allows campfires and there are no restrictions.
Machinery or Equipment Generated
Fires might start from machinery or automobiles located near forest land. Heat from automobile engines and catalytic converters are some sources of fires. Such fires can spread quickly and engulf large areas. Automobile accidents or airplane crashes can also lead to devastating fires.
Electric lines, transformers, substations can be involved in lightning strikes, vehicular accidents and spreading fires, causing additional areas to be involved in fire. Only professionals should approach any of these electrical utilities.
Often the fires started to burn debris and waste vegetation might spread into brush and forests with the help of wind where it can lead to a wildfire. It is extremely important to carefully monitor such fires to ensure that sparks do not fly out and land elsewhere where a fire can ignite. There should always be a source of water to extinguish these fires.
It’s obvious, with the above listed causes, we have work to do to prevent many wildfires. Let’s discuss what we can do.