Ever wondered what would happen if a forest caught fire? Because of the easy availability and proximity of flammable substances, a forest catching fire would wreak havoc on ecosystem and cause serious damage to the flora and fauna. This havoc wreaking phenomenon is referred to as forest fire, wild fire or bush fire. Let’s see what causes them.
Causes of Forest Fires
Fire of any kind is dependent on the availability of 3 key ingredients. These are fuel, oxygen and heat. This is called the fire triangle. In a forest, two of the three triangle elements, i.e. fuel and oxygen are always present – fuel in the form of biomass and vegetation, and oxygen that is a natural by-product of plant respiration. The only element left, is heat and when that becomes available, a forest fire may occur. Forest fire can be caused by natural or man-made causes.
Natural causes of Forest Fire
- Lightning storms that are dry, i.e. unaccompanied by rain.
- Volcanic eruptions that cause hot lava to burn everything in its way.
- Underground coal fires, which continue to burn long after ground fires have been extinguished can cause forest fires to reignite or spread.
- Spontaneous fires, that occur when weather conditions are dry and produce enough heat to induce spontaneous combustion.
- Sometimes, sparks induced by rockfalls can also cause forest fires in the vicinity.
Man-made causes of Forest Fires
Man-made causes of forest fires include a myriad of reasons, most of them avoidable
- Smoking in a forest is likely to cause fires from the sparks that fall to the ground, as also from stubs that aren’t fully extinguished.
- Recreational activities like campfires and bonfires can also cause forest fires and hence warrant extreme caution.
- Equipment related fires are also quite common, and hence warrant caution.
- Another significant cause for forest fires is arson for clearing lands, which often goes out of control.
- Global warming, another human induced disaster, also contributes to forest fires by way of increased draughts.
It has been observed that human mishaps account for the majority of forest fires. We really must be more careful with our precious forest resources.