Everything about Wildfires

Consider the following statements:

1.      A wildfire is a fire in an area of combustible vegetation that occurs in the countryside or rural area.

2.      It is caused only by anthropogenic means.

3.      50% of forest area in India is fire prone.

Which of the above statements are correct?

a       1 and 2
b       2 and 3
c       1 and 3
d       All of the above

Solution (d)

A wildfire or wildland fire is a fire in an area of combustible vegetation that occurs in the countryside or rural area. Depending on the type of vegetation where it occurs, a wildfire can also be classified more specifically as a brush fire, bush fire, desert fire, forest fire, grass fire, hill fire, peat fire, vegetation fire, or veld fire. Fossil charcoal indicates that wildfires began soon after the appearance of terrestrial plants 420 million years ago. Wildfire’s occurrence throughout the history of terrestrial life invites conjecture that fire must have had pronounced evolutionary effects on most ecosystems’ flora and fauna. Earth is an intrinsically flammable planet owing to its cover of carbon-rich vegetation, seasonally dry climates, atmospheric oxygen, and widespread lightning and volcano ignitions.

Wildfires can be characterized in terms of the cause of ignition, their physical properties, the combustible material present, and the effect of weather on the fire. Wildfires can cause damage to property and human life, but they have many beneficial effects on native vegetation, animals, and ecosystems that have evolved with fire. Many plant species depend on the effects of fire for growth and reproduction. However, wildfire in ecosystems where wildfire is uncommon or where non-native vegetation has encroached may have negative ecological effects.

The Forest Survey of India, data on forest fire attribute around 50% of the forest areas as fire prone. This does not mean that country’s 50% area is affected by fires annually. Very heavy, heavy and frequent forest fire damages are noticed only over 0.8%, 0.14% and 5.16% of the forest areas respectively. Thus, only 6.17% of the forests are prone to severe fire damage. In the absolute term, out of the 63 million ha. of forests an area of around 3.73 million ha can be presumed to be affected by fires annually.