Forest fires present serious problems for parklands as well as residential neighborhoods. When unplanned, forest fires can cause extensive damage and even death. Understanding how forest fire start and how you can prevent them from occurring is one of the key steps in keeping everyone – both humans and animals – safe from forest fires.
What Causes Forest Fires?
Forest fires may be caused naturally or by humans. Natural forest fires typically occur as the result of lightning, with a very small percentage being caused by spontaneous combustion of dry fuel such as leaves and sawdust. The great majority of forest fires are caused by humans. While some are purposely started and controlled in order to ensure good health of the forest, most human-caused forest fires are caused by accident. Overall, humans are responsible for 84 percent of forest fires that occur.
These accidental forest fires may be sparked by any number of causes. Smoking is one common cause of forest fires, as is the improper use of equipment or recreational accidents. Failure to use hot coal containers at campgrounds, for example, can lead to fires as the hot coals spread.
How Does a Forest Fire Burn?
As with any fire, forest fires require heat, oxygen, and fuel in order to burn. If any one of these elements is removed, the fire will go out. In addition, the fire will spread in the direction of the most abundant supply of these elements. In forests, there are three major classifications of the fire type. These include:
- Ground Fire: Occurs on the ground, typically below the leaves.
- Surface Fire: Occurs on the surface of the forest up to a level of 1.3 meters high.
- Crown Fire: Occurs in the tops of trees.
Crown fires, which are considered the most dangerous of the three classifications, can spread quickly and can “jump” from crown to crown. In addition, they can be dependent upon surface fires or may occur at the same time as surface fires.
How are Forest Fires Addressed?
The earlier a fire is detected, the easier it is to extinguish. Therefore, it is important to report forest fires right away. Once the fire has been detected, the firefighters and their equipment must be transported to the site. Since the fires typically occur on rugged terrain, this process can be quite difficult. Often, firefighters and their equipment have to be transported partially by air, after which they have to walk the rest of the way.
To fight forest fires, trenches may be dug into the soil layer to control ground fires. Portable water backpacks and firebreaks may be used to control surface fires, while aerial support is necessary for crown fires. Water and/or fire retardant chemicals may be used to assist with the suppression of the fire.
Clearly, prevention of forest fires is essential. Therefore, whenever you are handling fire in any way, be sure to use it with caution and to use equipment such as the coal containers available through Securr to ensure the fire is properly contained.