Wildfires are catastrophic and destroy everything in their path, till they are controlled. Wildfires usually occur in uninhabited areas, but they can start anywhere and cause harm to agriculture, animals, humans and homes. 90% of wildfires are caused by humans. There are three kinds of wildfires – ground, surface and crown. Ground spread by burning underneath the surface litter, surface fires burn forest litter lying on the ground, and crown fires, which are the most intense, burn the top layer of foliage on trees. Read on to find out some surprising and interesting facts about wildfires:
Fire “Tornadoes” can be caused by wildfires
Fire tornadoes or fire whirls are rare but extremely destructive and are responsible for fires spreading rapidly. Fire tornadoes can shoot as high as 1,000 ft and be as fast as 90 mph. It is extremely difficult to contain fire tornadoes as it is impossible to predict their speed and direction.
Most large animals escape from wildfires
Most large animals manage to escape from wildfires, as their instinct warns them of danger. Fewer animals perish in the fires than is usually thought. The animals which do suffer are the animals that are not very mobile, like small insects and rodents. Wildfires are dangerous to wildlife after the fire is controlled because of smoke inhalation. Animals suffer from the destruction of the natural habitat for food sources and landscape.
Some forests need fires to survive
It’s surprising but true! Some forests, like the lodge pole pine forests depend on fire for survival, as the lodge pole cones need fire to get them to open, to release the seeds inside them.
Ponderosa pines also benefit from ground fire occasionally, to clear the floor of the forest of young trees and grasses. But repeated fires can damage sagebrush, which is important for the eco-system.
A kind of beetle thrives in wildfires
The beetles belonging to the Melanophils subgenus use infrared radiation sensors to find out the location of burning forests. Once they detect the desired inferno, the beetles mate and eggs are laid inside the scorched trees. They prefer dead trees as these trees have no defense mechanisms such as sap to prevent insects from burrowing inside the trees.
Wildfires can start spontaneously
Wildfires can start spontaneously because of accumulation of dead leaves, trees and twigs which can create intense heat. This heat can cause spontaneous combustion and cause a wildfire.
Wildfires are usually caused by human error
80% of wildfires are caused due to mistakes made by humans. Discarded cigarettes, unattended campfires are some causes of wildfires starting due to humans. These wildfires destroy huge acres of forests and put animal and human lives in danger. A little carelessness on the part of humans can cause tremendous loss to the environment.
Climate change can cause more wildfires
A study determined that climate change may increase the risk of wildfires. The drier and hotter climate may increase the fire activity in forests and grasslands. Climate change would have the opposite effect in deserts and ice caps. The effect of wildfires might vary according to the location and environment, but forests in northern latitudes such as the western part of the United States may see an increase in wildfires.
Wildfires are also caused by lightning
The earth is struck by lightning over 100,000 times in a day, and 10-20% of lightning strikes have the potential to cause wildfires.
The way a wildfire behaves depends on the prevailing weather conditions, amount of moisture in air, amount and type of fuel which is available to the fire, and topography of the area. If there is more dry matter, there would be more fuel than live plants which burn less as they are filled with water.
Wildfires can produce their own weather
Large fires can create their own winds too. The fire heats up the surrounding air which rises upwards. The cool air which rushes in replaces the hot air and creates a wind, increasing oxygen supply to the wildfire.
Wildfires are devastating to the environment, destroying millions of acres of forest, and there are many hidden facts about wildfires which are really surprising and interesting.