Forest Fires & Their Effects on the Environment

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Forest fires are a seasonal occurrence in many parts of the world. Uncontrolled and man-made forest fires are a threat to biodiversity and is one of the main causes of deforestation. When fires spread, they also leave entire families without a home. Periodic natural fires can be helpful to the health of a forest.

Causes

  • Almost all natural fires are caused by one of the following: lightning, volcanic eruption, sparks from rockfalls and spontaneous combustion. There are also man-made fires caused by arson, cigarettes, sparks from equipment and power line arcs. How much the fire spreads also depends on the type of flammable materials around the area. The weather conditions are also an important variable in the causes of a fire. Heat waves, strong winds, droughts and climate changes can have an effect on the behavior of forest fires.

Consquences and Effects on the Environment

  • Forest fires can have a good effect on the soil and natural resources of a forest. Many tree species take advantage of the fires. The growth and reproduction of several types of plants depend on periodic burning, because the smoke induces germination. However, large uncontrolled forest fires definitely have a negative effect on the environment. They can increase the effect of the greenhouse gases, therefore increasing pollution and global warming. They also have an important role in deforestation and the depletion of wildlife. When fires approach homes, entire communities have to be evacuated, and many people lose their properties.

Prevention

  • Local agencies and fire departments supervise the burning of necessary fires to maintain their role in the ecology. These controlled burns are also a great way to prevent larger forest fires because it prevents fuel accumulation on the ground. However, man-made forest fires definitely need to be prevented, and people are constantly educated regarding fire safety. Recommendations include common directions such as: do not leave a camp fire unattended and do not throw away lit matches or cigarettes. A small spark is all that is necessary to cause a forest fire.

Putting Out a Fire

  • Putting out a fire depends on the technology available on site. In places with fewer resources, sand is thrown over the fires to put them down. Another method is to beat down the fire with sticks or palms to suppress it. However, in countries with more resources, the technology used to suppress a fire can be highly developed. Fire retardants and water can be thrown from airplanes and helicopters.

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