Forest Fire: Causes and Effects

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Forest Fire: Causes and Effects

By | April 2011
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Forest Fire: Causes and Effects
Ron Hilton
National American University

One morning you wake up and look out the window. Off to the west, you see an orange glow over the hills. You ask yourself “Is that a forest fire? What caused it? What is it going to do to the ecosystem?”

The answer to the first question comes down to two main causes, man and nature. According to the U.S. Fire Administration (2000), “Human activity is seven times more likely to be the cause of a wildland fire than that of lightning strikes.”

We can narrow down the human-caused fires into two further categories, accidental, such as campfires, outdoor debris burning, smoking materials, electricity, and fireworks. We also have intentionally set fires. For instance, those that were used by Native Americans as signals or to drive game, those set by forestry experts, or those set by arsonists

In 2009, there were 69,650 human caused wildfires that burned over two million acres (National Interagency Fire Center, 2010). Campfires, especially if left unattended or improperly extinguished, can spread to adjoining fuels and start a wildfire. Fireworks can ignite dry vegetation with sparks and hot debris. After the fire, part of the firework, its packaging, or a crater from its explosion may remain.

In many locations, outdoor debris burning is permitted. Where it is not permitted, persons may still illegally burn refuse, especially if conditions are dry, outdoor burning can get out of control and spread to vegetation in the surrounding area.

Another factor is discarded smoking materials, they can ignite a wildfire, however the conditions must be conducive to ignition in the time the smoking material is still burning before it consumes itself and dies out. Although though smoking materials burn at a very high temperature, if...
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