At a small scale, forest fires can help preserve the health of the environment. They do so by cleansing the land of any debris that may intervene with the natural flow of the ecosystem.
But examples from the Amazon rainforest, Australia, or Indonesia prove just how devastating forest fires can be and how quickly they can rampage through the land destroying everything from the flora to the fauna, and even people’s lives. In these cases, forest fires threaten the safety of everything and everyone. It becomes vital to think about realistic solutions on wildfire suppression and learn how to stop forest fires.
How Do Forest Fires Spread?
In just a few seconds, a small spark from a lit cigarette can launch an apocalyptic image of fire. How exactly can these flames spread so much? Around 4.6 million acres of the Amazon rainforest burned back in 2019, as the flames traveled through almost half of the land.
Fire needs fuel to burn. In this context, the fuel is the vegetation. Forest fires usually consume any dry vegetation in their path. The drier the vegetation is, the more quickly the fires can spread throughout the forest and leave almost nothing standing.
The warmer climate makes it possible for forest fires to get more fuel to sustain them than ever before. Vegetation is extremely vulnerable to climate change. As the temperatures rise and the level of precipitation lowers, the trees or grass are starving, becoming drier than ever before.
How to Stop Fires from Starting
Wildfires can start in a variety of ways:
- Lightning strikes;
- Dry weather combined with strong sunlight;
- Human error (improper tactics of burning waste, lit cigarettes thrown on the ground, unattended campfires, etc.).
Statistics show that most forest fires are started by human activity. In the US, nearly 85% of all these fires are caused by people, mostly due to small mistakes that escalate quickly given the right circumstances.
The Amazon fires, which burned through more than 2 billion trees and threatened hundreds of species, were also "sparked" by human activity according to most experts. The government tried to blame the dry weather and strong winds for leading to the fires, but experts believe these environmental characteristics added to the growth and spread of the flames, not their spark. The fires themselves can be attributed to a lack of proper oversight on land clearing activities that use burning to make way for agricultural or ranching purposes.
It seems that one of the main ways to prevent wildfires from ever starting lies in making sure that human activity doesn’t lead to it. For some, it’s a matter or education, like knowing you should never leave a campfire unattended, even if for just a few minutes.
On a larger scale, wildfire suppression tactics must be strongly employed by local governments to ensure that no human activity, for any reason, puts the land at risk. For their part, Brazillian officials already announced a "zero-tolerance" policy on environmental crimes, even though the President has a history of cutting back rainforest protection for financial purposes.
Just Stop Clearing Forests Already
Wildfire suppression is a complex subject because there are multiple forest fire precautions that needed to effectively lower the impact of these fires or even prevent them from happening at such a large scale.
Some forest fire fighting techniques can include:
1. Wildfire Suppression Techniques
With wildfire suppression, the first priority of the firefighters is to ensure the safety of human lives. Based on the scale and type of forest fires, firefighters may use an array of different techniques:
- Using water or dirt to cool and extinguish hot spots;
- Confining the fire to prevent it from spreading;
- Fighting wildfire with fire
The expression "fighting fire with fire" holds some truth here. If a forest fire starts, a controlled fire may be used to prevent the fire from spreading. The controlled fire can create a barrier between the wildfire and the healthy vegetation. When the wildfire reaches the barrier, firefighters stand a better chance to put out the flames. This is what firefighters use to put out forest fires in certain cases.
2. Forest Fire Precautions Techniques
There are also fire fighting methods that have the goal of minimizing the scales of the flames. Some of these techniques are part of a long-term solution to reinvigorate the forest and its vegetation so that it stops being the prime "fuel" for fires.
Here are some precautions that may be taken:
- Selective harvesting;
- Brush removal;
- Responsible waste disposal;
- Recurrent "control fires" that may help clear the area of dead vegetation.
These measures are meant for small-scale implementation. For a macro level, changes must be made regarding the world’s carbon emissions which increase the temperatures every year.
Even if the population is a lot more careful not to spark fires if the climate keeps getting warmer, then simply learning how to stop forest fires may not be enough. Forest fires could continue to increase in prevalence and spread.
3. Stop Deforestations
Massive deforestation has greatly contributed to the increase in wildfires. When you cut a tree, what is left, the stump, dies rather quickly. It may still absorb nutrients from the ground, but the lack of leaves means it cannot photosynthesize.
The more dead tree stumps there are in a forest, the more likely a wildfire is to spread throughout the land and wreak havoc. The effects of deforestation have already been seen in the Amazon, which is called the "biggest deforestation front" by the WWF. Many of the 2019 fires burned through areas that had recently been deforested and then spread to neighboring lands.
Plant a Tree Today!
If you want to save the planet and stop wildfires from spreading as they did in the Amazon or Australia, you can.
Planting new trees is your best "weapon" against climate change as it helps preserve the health of forests. Healthy trees can help restore even burned land by providing it with additional nutrients it can use to repair itself, and feed the rest of the vegetation and native animals.
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You’re a hero! You’ve helped eliminate 10 tons CO2 from the environment!