Forest Fires: Flames Risking the Earth

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The year 2020 has seen unprecedented wildfires causing havoc across the world. The last ten years have shattered all records, but 2020 tops them all. A wildfire is a type of uncontrolled fire that spreads across wildland, including pastureland, forest, grasslands and peatlands.

The changing climate had made wildfires at least 30% more likely in recent years.

Climate change is driving an increase in the weather conditions that stroke wildfires. Research finds that the total area decreased by up to a quarter each year due to the wildfires in the last two decades.

To underestimate this paradox of increasing forest fires, one needs to access many influential factors, viz climate change, human land use, and political and social motivations.

Forest Fires Across the World

Australia has recently battled its most extensive forest fire on record. Parts of the Arctic, the Amazon and Central Asia have also experienced unusually severe blazes. It had followed on from the year 2019 when Amazon faced its third-largest fire on record.

The regions of Indonesia, North America and Siberia also recorded intense blazes in the same year.

Then the year 2020 saw a spike in large wildfires across the world amid Covid lockdown. The states of California, Oregon and Washington had experienced the worst fire season in the year 2020.

The North-eastern Siberia is undergoing a massive fire in the summer of 2021. California’s northern mountain areas have also seen large fires in 2021 after a heatwave hits the US.

The wildfire in the Indian state of Uttarakhand that began in October 2020 continued till the early summer of 2021, and the officials struggled a lot to bring it under control. The conditions have so worsened now that some part of the world is on fire at any given time.

How Do the Fires Start?

Some wildfires are started naturally, mainly by lightning. The rest are created by humans, either by arson or accidentally. However, an estimate has shown that just 4% of wildfires start naturally.

The proportion of human-started fires to the lightening started fires varies from region to region. Many regions experience distinct forest fire seasons, driven either by agricultural burning or by rainy and dry periods. However, others have a risk of fire year-round.

Extravagant lifestyles, unsustainable consumption of natural resources, and associated pollution contribute to global warming, making forest fires more likely. Un-extinguished campfires, lit cigarette butts, improperly burned debris, and arson is responsible for 84% of the wildfire outbreak.

Forest fires that were once considered a natural phenomenon are now coming under recognition due to human errors.

How Do the Forest Fires Affect the Mother Earth?

Wildfires are causing an immediate and long-term effect on the natural resources present on the earth. A loss of vegetation due to fires prevents the absorption of water by the soil.

Sparse vegetation promotes the transportation of debris and sediments into the water bodies. Post-fire flash floods introduce heavy metals from ash and dirt into the infiltrate waterways, further polluting the valuable resources.

Forest fires also cause the release of large amounts of smoke into the atmosphere. Air pollution from wildfires travel greater distances and pose a threat to human health.

The smoke particles can get lodged deep within our lungs, causing severe respiratory problems. An increased amount of carbon monoxide during or post forest fire can lead to various health implications.

Plants and animals are susceptible to diseases, fungus, and decreased resistance to insects post survival.

Buildings and homes that lie within the path of forest fires get destroyed. The first responders pose a threat to their health after being exposed to hazardous materials in the clean-up process.

Asbestos, a building material, gets distributed in the air, and its inhalation develops pleural mesothelioma in the lining of the lungs.  Improperly disposed materials may cause a threat of destruction in the future.

What Should We Do?

We can assist in decreasing or eliminating the risk of wildfire outbreaks. The first and foremost step is never to leave a fire unattended.

Completely extinguish the fire before leaving the surrounding area. Be extremely mindful while discarding cigarettes, flammable liquids, and smoking materials and never toss them on the ground.

Keep water and other fire retardants nearby while hosting a fire to prevent the chance of any possible untamed fire or outbreak. If you ever see an unattended or out-of-control fire, contact the local fire department ASAP.

You must have heard the expression ‘Only you can prevent forest fires’, unlike many natural disasters.

The impact of forest fires can last for many years. By taking necessary caution and preventive measures, one can monitor fires responsibly and, thus, lower the threats associated with these devastating tragedies.

Ankita Gautam
Ankita Gautam
Ankita Gautam aka AnkiTam, is an Educator, who learns by reading and expresses by writing. She has been an avid reader, writer, speaker, learner, and observer ever since. A science background could never stop her from grasping the nitty-gritties of fashion, technology, and trending news. She finds her solace in magazines and newspapers. Being an ambivert, she is blessed to be flexible in knowing when to talk and when to listen. She is an opinionated personality with an optimal level of compassion and empathy. She can be easily found entertaining people with her wordplays and also with her wry sense of humor. She is a pantomath, who wants to know everything.

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