uncontrolled fire of natural, accidental or criminal origin, which spreads over a natural or agricultural area covered by combustible vegetation
(Redirected from Wildfires)

Wildfire is a general term which includes forest fires, grassland fires, bushfires, brush fires and any other vegetation fire in countryside areas.[1][2]

A wildfire in Bitterroot National Forest, Montana
A wildfire on Angel Island

Wildfires occur in every continent except Antarctica. They can occur naturally and spontaneously, but many are caused by humans, accidentally or deliberately. Fossil records and human history show that wildfires do occur at intervals.[3][4] The Great Oxygenation Event and the spread of land plants made Earth a planet of fire.

While some wildfires burn in remote forested regions, they can cause extensive destruction of homes and other property in the zone between developed areas and undeveloped wilderness.[5][6]

Wildfires can cause extensive damage to property and human life, but they also have various effects on wilderness areas. Some plant species depend on the effects of fire for growth and reproduction,[3] although large wildfires may be bad for other plant and animal species.[7]

Strategies of wildfire prevention, detection, and suppression have varied over the years.[8] One of the more controversial methods is controlled burn: People permit or light small fires to burn away some of the fuel for a potential wildfire.[5][9]

Plant adaptation

Ecological succession after a wildfire in a boreal pine forest next to Hara Bog, Lahemaa National Park, Estonia. The pictures were taken one and two years after the fire.

Plants in wildfire-prone ecosystems often have adaptations to their local conditions. Such adaptations include physical protection against heat, increased growth after a fire event, and flammable materials that encourage fire and eliminate competition. For example, plants of the genus Eucalyptus contain flammable oils that encourage fire and hard sclerophyll leaves that resist heat and drought. This makes them dominant over less fire-tolerant species.[10][11] Dense bark, shedding lower branches, and high water content in external structures may also protect trees from rising temperatures.[3] Fire-resistant seeds and reserve shoots that sprout after a fire encourage species preservation, as in 'pioneer' species that specialize in restarting ecological succession after a fire.

Smoke, charred wood, and heat can stimulate the germination of seeds. Smoke from burning plants promotes contains orange butenolide, which induces germination of seeds.[12][13]

Grasslands in Western Sabah, Malaysian pine forests, and Indonesian Casuarina forests are believed to have resulted from previous periods of fire.[14] The deadwood litter of Chamise (Californian greasewood shrub) is low in water content and flammable, and the shrub quickly sprouts after a fire.[3] Sequoia relies on periodic fires to reduce competition, release seeds from their cones, and clear the soil and canopy for new growth.[15] Some have adapted to, and rely on, low-intensity surface fires for survival and growth. The optimum fire frequency for Caribbean pine in Bahamian pineyards is every 3 to 10 years. Too frequent fires favour herbaceous plants, and infrequent fires favour other tree species.[16]



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  2. Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary. 2008. 3rd ed., Cambridge University Press. page 5. [1] Archived 2009-08-13 at the Wayback Machine ISBN 978-0-521-85804-5
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Pyne, Stephen J. (2002). "How plants use fire (and are used by it)". NOVA online. Retrieved 2009-06-30.
  4. Krock, Lexi (June 2002). "The World on Fire". NOVA online - Public Broadcasting System (PBS). Retrieved 2009-07-13.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Interagency strategy for the implementation of the Federal Wildland Fire Policy, entire text
  6. "Wildfires in Canada". Government of Canada. 2009-02-04. Archived from the original on 2012-03-02. Retrieved 2009-07-09.
  7. Flannigan, M.D.; et al. (2005). "Forest fires and climate change in the 21st century" (PDF). Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change. 11 (4): 847. doi:10.1007/s11027-005-9020-7. S2CID 2757472. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-02-26. Retrieved 2009-06-26.
  8. "International experts study ways to fight wildfires". Voice of America (VOA) News. 2009-06-24. Archived from the original on 2010-01-07. Retrieved 2009-07-09.
  9. National Wildfire Coordinating Group Communicator's Guide for Wildland Fire Management, entire text
  10. Santos, Robert L. (1997). "Section Three: problems, cares, economics, and species". The Eucalyptus of California. California State University. Archived from the original on 2010-06-02. Retrieved 2009-06-26.
  11. Fire: the Australian experience (PDF), NSW Rural Fire Service, archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-07-22, retrieved 2009-02-04
  12. Keeley, J.E. and C.J. Fotheringham (1997). "Trace gas emission in smoke-induced germination" (PDF). 276. Science: 1248–1250. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-05-06. Retrieved 2009-06-26. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  13. Flematti GR, Ghisalberti EL, Dixon KW, Trengove RD (2004). "A compound from smoke that promotes seed germination". Science. 305 (5686): 977. doi:10.1126/science.1099944. PMID 15247439. S2CID 42979006.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  14. Karki, Sameer (2002). "Community involvement in, and management of, forest fires in South East Asia" (PDF). Project FireFight South East Asia. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-07-30. Retrieved 2009-02-13.
  15. "Giant Sequoias and Fire". US National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-06-30.
  16. "Fire management assessment of the Caribbean Pine (Pinus caribea) Forest Ecosystems on Andros and Abaco Islands, Bahamas" (PDF). TNC Global Fire Initiative. The Nature Conservancy. September 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-12-01. Retrieved 2009-08-27.