Wildfires can have devastating effects on the ecosystem. Did you know that 2020 has experienced the deadliest disaster to inhabitation in the wild due to wildfires? Unfortunately, while the world is struggling to put up with the health crisis, the world should be woke for wildfires- the new slayer in the wild. In 2020, wildfires have been seen to break out across different regions of the world. As a matter of fact, the Americas, Australia, Asia, and Africa have had to battle the raging wildfires this year. Shockingly, some like the mystical Amazon rainforest, have barely cooled off.
What are wildfires?
In a nutshell, wildfires are fires that start in grasslands, bushes, or forests, and as they grow, they spread out to larger areas becoming highly uncontrollable. Geologists also refer to them as forest fires or wildland fires.
Whenever they occur, Wildfires put danger to the community as they change the ecosystem by killing flora and fauna. Bush fires are also responsible for the extinction of certain forest species, fill the air with smoke and debris from the fire making it hard to breathe an on reaching people’s settlement they destroy property and sometimes deaths. Most important, forests are a major impact on global climate; forest fires are a contributing factor to the ongoing global climate changes.
The ability to control or contain a wildfire depends on what fire experts call elements of a fire triangle (fuel, oxygen, and heat). Forest fires thrive on these elements and supporting environmental conditions such as winds, dry atmosphere. Firefighters manage forest fires by disrupting and or eliminating one or all of the elements of a fire triangle; the heat can be eliminated by water, oxygen by dirt.
Types of wildfires
Crown wildfire or canopy wildfires
These fires burn the whole length of the forest trees from the trunk all the way up the canopy. These are dangerous since they are easily spread by wind and can change the direction of burning at any time. Canopy fires are often difficult to contain since they can jump from one tree or forest to another. They leave most damage in the forest as they burn everything on their way.
These are fires that only burn forests, short vegetation, and dead plant material. It is easy to extinguish and does not cause a lot of damage to the forest.
Ground fires are also known as underground fires or subsurface fires. They are slow-moving wildfires since they burn below the duff and litter. During dry times they can be difficult to put out due to lots of dry matter that can lead to the fires blazing survival on a warm winter that can reemerge to fire during spring.
What causes forest fires?
While there are many suspect causes of wildfires, it has always proved cumbersome to isolate a single cause of wildfires. A wildfire could bloom from a simple cause just for the spread to be facilitated by other natural factors such as the winds. The cause of wildfires can however be classified into two”
- Naturally bloomed wildfires
- Wildfires as a result of human activities
Naturally occurring forest fire
Natural forest fires are mostly caused by hot lightning bolts that strike earth a little longer than usual, emitting sparks that ignite dry accumulated forest duff and litter. These are hard to detect since they may occur far from human settlements and parks. They are also difficult to manage since they may be ignited at many points in a forest or region.
Additionally, the natural heat from the sun in times of drought may equally spark dry matter or surface of the forest leading to a fire. On rare occasions, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes may also result to these life ending fires in the wildlands.
Wildfires resulting from Human activities
According to a study by national geographic, 90% of wildfires are caused by human activities. These activities include Prescribed forest fires mostly done when clearing lands that end up going out of control and become wild, and reckless disposal of smoldering cigarette remains and filters. In other cases, wildfires will start from garbage fires that are left unattended may spread on to nearby vegetation leading to huge fires.
Where we have Electricity surges, any damage to power lines that may cause sparks in the forest. Again Recreational activities such as campfires left unattended, fireworks sparks, and other combustion sparks. Lastly, military exercise and agricultural activities.
What to do in the event a wildfire occur near you
In the unfortunate event of a wildfire, here are some practical precautionary measures you can take to ensure you come out alive:
- If you are out and a forest fire catches up to you, try not to run because you may not be able to outrun the flames. Instead, try covering your mouth and nose with a wet fabric to avoid suffocating from the smoke.
- Make sure to call for help and let the authorities know your whereabouts.
- Follow the local news to know how close the fires are to your home, updates regarding evacuation routes, and other evacuation information.
- Wear protective clothing to protect you from excess heat and the smoky air.
Ways of preventing wildfires
The slow death of the rich natural vegetation will soon endanger the human life if concerted efforts are not take to control and prevent wildfires. Since the natural habitat for wild animals are destroyed, they may hit back and encroach our homes. Again, the dynamic climatic conditions will even worsen with the continued wearing off of the forest cover. That means the whole world years to come may turn into a desert. Before that happens, here are some ways in which wildfires can be prevented.
1. Handle fire with care else you may bloom a wildfire
Here, avoid spilling flammables haphazardly and store them away from any ignition or appliances that may emit sparks. You can use prescribed fires to clear out the forest floor from time to time to prevent too much accumulation of dead dry plant material easily sparked by lightning and other ignition sources. This will also reduce fuels that may cause a fire to be unmanageable.
2. Dispose fire and flammable material appropriately to avoid wildfires
Always be carefully dispose of smoking materials e.g. matches and cigarettes. Never leave any fire unattended campfire to garbage fires. When you are done using fire or burning charcoal and other fuels carefully dispose of them when they are completely safe or as instructed by authorities. Again, contact the local authority immediately you notice an attended fire.
3. If your property is near areas with wildfire-prone areas, safeguard your property.
Sometimes forest fires can reach people’s property and home areas nearing forests. Ensure you have safeguarded your home area to prevent forest fires from reaching your property. This can be done by:
- Prune any vegetation hanging around; flammable vegetation and clean debris that may fuel a fire around your house and other buildings in your compound to make a fireproof zone in your homestead.
- Do not store firewood any other material that may fuel a fire in your fireproof compound.
- Use fire-resistant building material for the roofing.
- Make sure that the local fire authority can access your house by clearing your driveway for easy accessibility. Additionally, make sure that your house is well marked so that authorities can know where to find you.
- Ensure that you have an escape plan and practice drills in case a fire occurs.
- Follow burning laws by authorities.
- Monitor outdoor fires until they have completely died out or until they are safe.