Forest fire is otherwise known as wild fire or brush fire. The size of forest fire is vast and extensive as, once originated, the fire spreads far and wide with unexpected change of direction and intensity. Forest fire is as old as the existence of forests. It causes extensive damage to human life, wild life, property and flora, disturbing the ecological balance and environmental niches. Besides, colossal loss to vegetation and environmental pollution hinders human progress and forest rain.
Prominent among the types of forest fire are surface fire, crown fire and jumping fire. Surface fire spreads through dry leaves and branches of trees falling on the ground as a result of wind-blow or weight-pressure. Once the leaves and the branches catch fire on deposits of dry leaves from four to five inches in thickness, it crawls as far as the leaves and branches are spread and deposited. This is also called crawling dismiss as the leaves and branches are spread and deposited.
Crown fire originates from the hill-top and spreads downwards to the forest surface. Jumping fire spreads from tree to tree by the blowing wind which carries the fire forward.
Two primary causes are responsible for forest fire, viz. Natural and man-made. Lightening in jungles causes natural forest fire, while man-made menace is more dangerous and destructive and is primarily caused by disposal of cigarette butts and electric sparking. Forest fire begets huge loss of timber resources, degradation of catchment areas and extinction of plants and animals. Loss of forest cover, also affects rainfall. Huge fire in immense areas with its emission of carbon dioxide causes global warming which is assuming alarming proportions, besides spelling danger for mankind extinction.
It causes large scale soil erosion and with it, also, loss of fertility and productivity of soil. In addition, the local inhabitants, who depend upon forest produces for their livelihood, lose their resources and source of income. Huge loss of animal lives is caused which is great loss to the human kingdom. Emissions can cause cardiovascular and respiratory problems. Wildfire smoke contains carbon dioxide, water-vapor, nitrogen oxide and other compounds.
The world scenario:
In the world scenario, untamed wildfire of southern Australia is a common occurrence during the summer season. USA Wildfire burns from nine to ten million acres of land every year with fire frequency standing at 6000 per year (6000/year). The main source of ignition in Canada and North West China is lightening. Tribal people almost in all countries ignite forests to burn leaves, shrubs, plants and timbers to turn forest land into agricultural land.
Now, the craze for urbanization has made people convert forest land into residential land and build dwelling houses for themselves or for sale by igniting and destroying forest lands. Creeping or surface fire is fueled by leaves and timber debris, grass and ground-spread shrubbery. Wildfire, exercises its adverse effect on climate and weather. Particulate matter and carbon dioxide go all the way to create respiratory problems.
In India, loss alone due to forest-fire is in the region of 440 cores of rupees. Fire occurs from January to June each year, the highest being March and April. In a curious situation, our fire fighters extinguish a forest fire in one direction and find the aboriginal inhabitants torching the forest from another side. It is not untrue that excessive summer heat causes fire, destroying forests and animals; but this is very few and far between. The real challenge is from indigenous people living in the vicinity of forests who create forest fire consciously to turn forest land into cultivated field.
By doing so, they make the land fertile turning ashes of leaves and timbers into manures with mingling rain-drops on the onset of monsoon. This is mostly seen in tribal areas as the tribal people live in forests. The forest properties are destroyed in their effort to convert lands into agricultural and residential plots. Many dense forest areas have turned into plain lands by human efforts who inhuman destruction of forests and wild animals has been so well-planned and systematic that many jungles visited a few years ago have vanished altogether.
Fire spreads beyond bounds:
In the hey winter period with the arrival of spring, trees shed dry leaves and dead leaves bearing a deserted and skeleton look. The jungle-bed gets filled with four to five inches’ thickness of dry leaves and timber sticks, making it vulnerable for the aboriginal inhabitants to tread thereon as poisonous snakes and insects crawl there-under and the path becomes slippery. To get rid of the impending danger of a snake or insect bites, and for residential and agricultural purposes, local people ignite the leaves and timbers. Once the forest is on fire, the possibilities of containing it becomes feeble and remote and fire spreads beyond bounds.
We owe our origin and development to nature which has given us land to live on, water to drink, fruits to dine with and air to breathe. With the phenomenal increase in the Indian population quantifying and percentage-wise, we need land for them to live in and adequate drinking water from the sweet water zone. Fresh air is a dream now-a-days as fuel-driven vehicles and over population has vitiated the atmosphere. We are now on the verge of losing everything the nature has endowed us with.
Creating social consciousness:
Indian forest property is declining very fast owing to deforestation, reckless mining, go-slow afforestation and forest fire. All these problems are man-made except in a few cases where nature plays havoc. Above all, if the extent of forest fire loss by men and nature is calculated, certainly nature plays second fiddle to man. Now, it is high time that mankind gets up from its slumber to take charge of saving forests before nature destroys us together. Instances are not infrequent where deforestation has caused flash floods in a number of Indian villages. So, our recklessness is fast becoming suicidal. Creating social consciousness and raising public opinion are the only option available before us.
The greatest remedy to this colossal problem is consciousness among people at large which can come through persistent propaganda and keen involvement. People living in the vicinity of forest land and inside forests should realize the danger they are initiating to the mortal lives and civilization by their avoidable act of destruction. The government should gear its machineries perfectly and fire-fighting squad should be at hand in case of any eventuality. The message of forest fire should reach the preventive time very fast so that minimum damage and destruction are made. Ariel spread of fire extinguishing gases and liquids should be used as soon as possible. The vicinity of the forest area should remain forest free so that fire stops from spreading.
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