Controlling the Rage of Forest Fires
They are difficult to control, unpredictable, and can destroy acres of land in minutes. It is estimated that forest fires decimate 10 million acres of land each year in North America alone. While it is difficult to give an exact count of how many wildfires there are in a given year, Newfoundland and Labrador suffer from more than 160. A safe guess would be in the hundreds of thousands.
Forest fires are unplanned, unwanted fires caused by humans or nature. These types of fires are stopped with aggressive counter actions by trained fire fighters who are more successful when wildfires are reported early.
Most fires are started by people. In fact, four out of five forest fires are due to the human factor. There are three elements that must be present in order for a forest fire to start. These are known as the fire triangle; conditions that present the perfect storm: oxygen, fuel and a heat source.
Heat Source: This is where humans play their biggest role. A heat source can come from cigarettes, matches, campfires, or lanterns. It can also come from natural sources such as lightning, hot winds and the sun.
Fuel: Anything flammable including brush, wood, leaves, grass and homes. The more fuel the greater the fire.
Oxygen: the air.
Taming the fires is a matter of simplifying the equation. Take away one of the elements in the fire triangle and you solve the problem. Fire fighters do this by using water to eliminate the flame or the heat source. They work to clear away fuel, thus starving the fire. Another method is called controlled burning – firefighters may start a fire to end one. A controlled burning takes fuel from the uncontrolled fire.
Homes and whole cities can be destroyed by forest fires if they are not detected early, but nature intended this disaster to be for good. Wildfires are important to maintaining the balance of nature. Now that scientists know more about this, a greater number of controlled burns are being sanctioned.
When fire eats away at the vegetation, they are feeding the soil important nutrients – basically the cycle of life at its simplest. Fire is a way to purge the bad. It kills off disease and aggressive insects that might damage fragile ecosystems.
Forest fires are something of an anomaly. They create chaos and end life, but they also restore balance and allow new life to emerge.