What is a wildfire?

A wildfire is simply an uncontrolled fire that is wiping out large fields and areas of land. It often starts with a lightning strike, or people carelessly starting it, or accidentally, or even arson, that went unnoticed and got out of hand. These fires sometimes burn for days and weeks. They can wipe out an entire forest and destroy almost every organic matter in it.

Wildfires are also known as forest fires, grass fires, peat fires, and bush fires, depending on the vegetation that is being burnt. Note that these fires tend to thrive in warm and dry climates, rather than the thick, moist rainforest types.

Wildfires and forests

The destructive nature of a wildfire in a forest is phenomenal. A forest is an entire ecosystem consisting of biotic factors like animals, insects, birds, bacteria, plants, and trees. It also consists of abiotic factors like water, rocks, and climate in that forest area. If a wildfire strikes such an ecosystem, most life forms will be lost, and the air and water will be heavily polluted. The soils can be degraded, and other abiotic elements such as water catchment areas will be affected.

Different wildfires burn differently.

Fire Triangle

Fires that burn organic material in the soil are called ground fires. It is a slower burning fire, usually under litter or under vegetation. They burn by glowing combustion.

Some fires burn on the surface of the ground. They burn dry leaves, broken twigs and branches, and other materials on the ground surface. These fires spread quickly and are known as surface fires.

Crown fires burn with huge flames and have intense heat and power. They burn from treetop to treetop and spread very quickly with the wind and heat. It is even worse if exposed to steep slopes.

Spotting is yet another fire type. Sometimes winds blow firebrands away from crown fires onto new areas. A firebrand is like a fireball that flies from burning treetops to other new places, resulting in new fires and keeps the fires spreading.

Conflagration is a large fire type with a character of aggravation, usually enhanced with wind action and firebrands.