What Are the Causes and Effects of Forest Fires?

Forest fire is the uncontrolled fire in a forest or areas with thick vegetation. Such fires are widespread and lasts for a long time since they are difficult to control. Depending on the area and vegetation type these can be categorised as wildfire, brush fire, bush fire, desert fire, grass fire, hill fire, peat fire, vegetation fire. Crop burning are not classified as a kind of forest fire since they are done intentionally. Forest fires causes a large scale destruction and often take place due to natural phenomenon. Human factors are also equally responsible but natural causes cannot be eliminated. Similarly extinguishing such fires might be by natural means or by human intervention.

With the current wildfire season still running in California, people’s interest in the issue is getting deeper. We’re no longer reading about fires in Siberia or another distant land. When fires directly affect us, we realize how serious they are. Just a few days ago, over 6,000 people were evacuated from their homes near Santa Barbara, since they were threatened by uncontrolled fires. This local emergency raised awareness about the causes and effects of forest fires.

Forest Fire

Wildfires spread rapidly and cannot be fully controlled by humans, no matter what advanced mechanization they use. The Government spends over $5 billion to fight over 700 wildfires, which occur each year in the United States.

We all know how important forests are for our environment. They are crucial for its sustainability. These fires have detrimental effects on our planet.

What Causes Forest Fires?

According to the National Fire Protection Association 2018 report, these are the main causes of forest, grass, and brush fires:

  • Human activities – Fires are often caused by open burning, improperly discarded cigarettes, improper functioning of power lines, and camping fires on windy or dry days. The 4th of July is always a busy day for fire departments. Fireworks are a common cause of forest, grass, and brush fires.
  • Lightnings (they caused 17% of wildland fires, but a minimal percentage of overall forest fires)
  • High wind is not a direct cause of fires, but it contributes to their spreading in 14% of the cases.

The fires caused by a human factor are entirely preventable. When open burning is necessary for waste disposal, it must be done by qualified companies who meet all safety requirements. People who smoke should never improperly discard cigarettes, especially not in the forest. It’s essential for campers to get educated on forest fires, so they can minimize the risk of unwanted situations. Windy and dry days are a red alarm, so outside fires should be avoided then. As for fireworks on the 4th of July, they should be left to professionals.

Local authorities must maintain electrical power lines more diligently, so they will prevent them from causing fires. They should impose greater control on companies dealing with waste disposal. Local fire departments must do everything in their power to raise awareness and educate citizens on proper behavior and safety measures during camping.

Lidia Simmons, a freelance writer for GradeMiners and a frequent camper, explains: “The nature of my job enables me to spend more time in the forest than most people can. I’ve seen people leaving cigarette butts in garbage deposits all over the place. They don’t want to cause fires. They are simply imprudent and lack proper education on the matter. These are usually teenagers, but I’ve seen parents doing the same thing, too. We have to raise more awareness.”

What Are the Effects of Forest Fires?

The consequences of forest fires are devastating with their increased frequency. When they rarely occur, the forest has its way to rebuild itself. But when its natural cycle is disturbed due to the increased frequency of fires caused by people, the entire ecosystem is affected.

  • The health of people involved is affected, since dust and smoke cause respiratory disorders. Fatalities are not uncommon, either. Lifesavers and firefighters put their lives in danger when trying to control wildfires.
  • Fire departments are forced to use harmful chemicals in order to put wildfires under control. The soil absorbs these flame retardants and their traces stay within it for years. They reduce its fertility and affect the composition of future vegetation. As a result, these chemicals have a negative effect on biodiversity.
  • Forest fires leave ashes behind. They erode the soil and destroy the balance in its nutrients. As a result, there’s an increased risk of landslides and flooding.
  • Wildfires contribute towards increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This makes the greenhouse effect stronger, and it speeds up the climate change.
  • Smaller animals, such as snakes, rabbits, insects, squirrels, and birds, are at major risk of death during forest fires. If the fire isn’t put under control for a long time, it can lead to extinction of certain species from that forest. Not all animals can migrate early after detecting oncoming fires. Some are left behind and killed. Those that move cannot go back to their previous habitats, since the plants that supported their lives are now gone.
  • Degradation is an immediate effect of forest fires. A fire can wipe clear thousands of acres of vegetation. This contributes to an increased air pollution in urban area.
  • The nation’s economy suffers by fires, too. They destroy people’s property. To put out a single fire, the authorities have to invest in logistics, trucks, phosphate fertilizer, and airplanes that deploy water from above. A huge budget is involved in the process. The U.S. government spends billions of dollars to control them on a yearly level.

We Have to Protect Our Environment

When fires occur naturally, they are beneficial. It’s nature’s way of reinventing itself. Wood ash is a great fertilizer, which contains calcium, potassium, and magnesium. After a fire, the forest becomes more fertile. Due to the nutrients in ash, acidic soils are neutralized and may support the growth of new plants. However, the fact that human error is the cause of a great deal of forest fires is devastating. Wildfires are becoming more common and harder to control. In our attempts to control them, we cause side effects with the chemicals that we have to use.

There is a way to mitigate the destructive power of wildfires. We should all be more responsible when handling fire in nature. Everyone thinks their cigarette won’t be the one that starts a horrific fire, so we act casually. But one of those cigarettes or camping fires will be a cause, and you may be the culprit. When a raging forest fire occurs, it’s incredibly difficult to stop. Its flames can reach 50 meters in height. Big wildfires can even alter the area’s weather patterns. They have a destructive power that we all have a responsibility to prevent.

Related: Importance of Flora and Fauna, Types of Pollution


Author’s bio: Tiffany Harper is a talented writer from New York, an extremely active woman, and a real leader. She began her career as a journalist and later proceeded it as an educational writer and editor. Sometimes she works as the special consultant with assignment writing help in self-growth and motivation areas.