WILDFIRES : The “Burning” issue

A wildfire is an unplanned fire that burns in a natural area such as a forest, grassland or a prairie. Fossil Charcoal indicates that wildfires began soon after the appearance of terrestrial plants about 420 million years ago. Earth is an intrinsically flammable planet owing to its cover of carbon-rich vegetation, seasonally dry climates, atmospheric oxygen, and widespread lightning and volcanic ignitions.

Depending on the type of plants present, a wildfire can also be classified more specifically as a forest fire, bush fire, desert fire, grass fire, hill fire, prairie fire, vegetation fire or a veld fire. Wildfires can be characterized in terms of the cause of ignition,their physical properties, the combustible material present and the effect of weather on the fire.

The causes of these wildfires may be natural or due to the involvement of human activity. The natural factors include dry climate, lightning, volcanic eruption. The most common direct human causes of wildfire ignition includes fire bombing, discarded cigarettes and sparks from equipment. They can also be started in communities experiencing shifting cultivation, where land is cleared quickly and farmed until the soil loses its fertility, and slash and burn clearing. However, the most common cause of wildfires varies throughout the world.

The spread of wildfires varies based on the flammable material present, its vertical arrangement and moisture content, and weather conditions. Fuel arrangement and density is governed in part by topography, as land shape determines factors such as available sunlight and water for plant growth.

Plants in wildfire-prone ecosystems often survive through adaptations to their local fire regime. Such adaptations include physical protection against heat, increased growth after a fire event, and flammable materials that encourage fire and may eliminate competition. Dense bark, shedding lower branches and high water content in external structures may also protect trees from rising temperatures. Fire-resistant seeds and reserve shoots that sprout after a fire encourage species preservation, as embodied by pioneer species.

Some animals do die in the flames of wildfires, mostly the elderly and very young animals who can’t escape. However, the majority of the wildfire mortalities came after the fire is out, due to the loss of important habitat and food sources burned in the fire. The burns create a new type of habitat, usually open areas where dense forests used to be that are quickly colonized by grasses and shrubs. This creates an opportunity for invasive species to move in before native species get the chance, which can have harmful impacts on the landscape.

Chinchaga Fire – 1950

The Chinchaga fire, also known as the Wisp fire, Chinchaga River fire and Fire 19, was a forest fire that burned in northern British Columbia and Alberta in the summer and early fall of 1950. With a final size of between 35,00,000 acres and 42,00,000 acres, it is the single largest recorded fire in North American history. The fire was allowed to burn freely, a result of local forest management policy and the lack of settlements in the region. The Chinchaga fire produced large amounts of smoke, creating the “1950 Great Smoke Pall”, observed across eastern North America and Europe. As the existence of the massive fire was not well-publicized, and the smoke was mostly in the upper atmosphere and could not be smelled, there was much speculation about the atmospheric haze and its provenance. The Chinchaga firestorm’s “historic smoke pall” caused”observations of blue suns and moons in the United States and Europe”. It was the biggest firestorm documented in North America created the world’s largest smoke layer in the atmosphere.

Black Saturday Bushfires – 2009

The Black Saturday bushfires were a series of bushfires that either ignited or were already burning that either ignited or were already burning across the Australian state of Victoria on and around Saturday, 7 February 2009, and were among Australia’s all-time worst bushfire disasters. The fires occurred during extreme bushfire weather conditions and resulted in Australia’s highest ever loss of human life from a bushfire, with 173 fatalities. Many people were left homeless as a result. As many as 400 individuals fires were recorded on Saturday 7 February ; the day has become widely referred to in Australia as Black Saturday.

California Wildfires – 2020

The 2020 California Wildfire season is a series of ongoing wildfires that are burning across the state of California. As of September 11, 2020, a total of 7,718 fires have burned 33,54,234 acres, more than 3 percent of the state’s roughly 100 million acres of land, making 2020 the largest wildfire season recorded in California history, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The latest fire that has occurred in California is named as the ‘Willow Fire’. It started on 9th September, 2020 at 6:04am. The location of this wildfire is Neptune Lane and Willow Glen Road, North of Smartville. It burned 1,311 acres leaving 41 structures destroyed and 10 structures damaged.

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