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Forest Fires

Sujata Iyer Mar 20, 2020
Forest fires are among the deadliest happenings in nature. With this story, we hope to shed some light on the causes and effects of forest fires.

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Probably one of the most dangerous disasters that can be averted to a great extent, is a forest fire. While the power to control it depends on the intensity of the fire, the responsibility to see to it that human error does not cause it lies solely with us.

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In this story, we'll get to know about some of the most basic and interesting facts about forest fires.

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What is a Forest Fire

A forest fire is most often referred to as a wildfire or a bush fire. Any fire that spreads uncontrollably over an expanse of vegetation or forest cover in the wild is called a forest fire. It generally occurs when the vegetation and forest cover in an area are completely dried out due to a heat wave or a drought.
Once a forest fire begins, it spreads very rapidly and becomes very difficult to control. When out of control, they can cause extensive damage to not only the forest cover, but also to human life and the environment. A forest fire can occur in any area that provides the basic ingredients for a fire: oxygen, heat, and combustible fuel.
A forest fire is different from other fires because of the wide area that it covers, the breakneck speed by which it spreads, its ability to change directions in a random manner and jump partitions and continue to burn.

What are the Causes of Forest Fires

Whatever the cause, the degree of the fire has nothing to do with it. A small source could end up destroying an entire forest, while a seemingly more dangerous source may start a fire that can be easily controlled. Forest fires have two main causes: they are either natural or caused by man.
Natural Causes: Natural causes of forest fires include lightning, volcanic eruptions, and also the sparks that fly off when two rocks collide with each other forcefully or when they fall from a height.
Man-Made: Forest fires are caused by people when they throw cigarette butts in a dry vegetative area, when sparks fly off during the handling of heavy machinery in the forest area or even by the overhead wires running across forests. While a majority of these are caused by accident, some of them are caused by simple human negligence, something that can very well be avoided.
The region in which the forest is located also influences the cause of the fire. For instance, an area prone to a lot of rainfall, with very tall trees and possible electric wires, will be more likely to catch fire by lightning, whereas an area that is more inhabited by humans is more prone to a fire caused by arson or negligence.

Effects of a Forest Fire

Positive Effects
  • Forest fires are important for the life cycle of many trees. A fire takes all the warm air above the trees. This warm air makes all the cones in the trees dry up and when the cones dry, they pop and the seeds fall onto the ground giving rise to more growth.
  • Any undergrowth that surrounds trees within the forest gets cleared by forest fires. This makes it easy for the new plants to grow more easily.
  • Also, any dead and decaying matter in and on the soil gets burned and cleared off, which allows new plants to grow.
  • The smoke from the forest fires can also act as an exterminator of poisonous insects within the forest. The fire helps to get rid of diseased plants from within the forest.
Negative Effects
  • The first harmful effect of a forest fire is definitely the devastating loss of forest cover. Entire forests can get wiped off due to forest fires, which can severely harm the ecological balance of nature and cause changes in the climate of the region.
  • The next harmful effect is the increase in the level of air pollution in the surrounding area. The smoke can be very hazardous to humans and animals living in the area and can cause death by excess inhalation.
  • Economically speaking, a lot of valuable timber is lost in forest fires, which can lead to losses in various fields.
Managing a forest fire is not an easy task. Firemen have to work days on end to get the fire under control and then finally put it out. So if you happen to visit a wooded area, make sure that you take all the necessary precautions and measures to see to it that you don't, in any way start one.