Forest Fire: What You Should Know

One speaks of a forest fire when there is a fire in the forest. Such forest fires can spread quickly and cause great damage: Animals that live in the forest die or lose their habitat. A lot of wood burns in the fire. Combustion releases a lot of carbon dioxide into the air, which harms the climate. The burned trees can no longer get carbon from the air and produce oxygen through photosynthesis. There is also often a risk that the fire will spread to nearby towns and endanger people. In addition, forestry loses a lot of money because the burned trees can no longer be felled and sold.

Forest fires have a major impact on an ecosystem. But they can also do good things: Bright, bright places are created. As a result, plants on the ground receive more sunlight again. Burning wood allows plants to get their nutrients back. Forest fires can also create new landscape forms such as heaths. Rare animals that use these landscape forms as habitat can then reproduce better.

Forest fires can be particularly dangerous when it is very dry for a long time. Strong winds and high temperatures can also intensify forest fires. When there’s a fire in the forest, the fire brigade has to act quickly, especially when it’s hot outside because the fire spreads faster. The most important thing is to put out the fire on the ground first. Trees don’t burn as quickly if there’s no heat rising from the ground. For this, you use water and extinguishing foam from hoses or dig up the earth with spades. In the case of large forest fires, helicopters or airplanes are often used to extinguish them. These fly over the forest area and spray large amounts of water on it. Sometimes the fire brigade also cuts down trees and cuts aisles in the forest so that the fire loses its fuel and cannot spread further.

How do forest fires occur?

Sometimes forest fires have natural causes. For example, when lightning strikes a tree. However, most forest fires are caused by humans. The fires often start unintentionally: For example, if someone carelessly handles a campfire. Hot catalytic converters from vehicles parked in the forest can also ignite a fire in severe drought. Sometimes sparks from passing trains can jump onto the trees. A common cause is also lit cigarettes that someone throws on the ground in the forest.

But it also happens that someone sets a fire in the forest on purpose. Then one speaks of arson, which is punishable by law. This occurs regularly in many poorer areas of the tropical rainforest. Criminals set fires here to clear the forest so that they can gain land for agriculture. But also with us, there are always cases of arson in the forest.

Sometimes, however, forest fires are started without it being forbidden. Some tribes living in the tropical rainforest sometimes burn small areas of the forest to farm for a period of time. Then they move on and let the forest grow again. Foresters and firefighters sometimes set fires on purpose. So-called return fires can sometimes bring larger forest fires under control because the food is burned away with the return fire. It also happens that deliberately controlled forest fires are set in endangered forest areas. This prevents a larger uncontrolled forest fire from forming there at some point, which could spread to other areas. In addition, a new, healthier forest can then grow there.

In most parts of the world, the number of forest fires has increased in recent years. This is mainly due to climate change, which is causing warmer weather. Dry areas where there is little rain are particularly affected by forest fires. Such an area is, for example, California in the USA. There are frequent severe droughts, i.e. times when the weather is particularly hot and dry. In Australia, too, you hear about forest fires again and again during the hot months. In 2019, during a dry season, there was a large forest fire in the Amazon rainforest in South America. At that time, a forest with an area of ​​more than 600,000 football pitches burned. There were certainly many fires deliberately set by criminals.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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