Forest Fire

The Copernicus Sentinel-3A satellite captured this image of smoke from wildfires in the US state of California on 9 October 2017. Image: 	contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2017), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

Definition

Wildfire, also called forest, bush or vegetation fire, can be described as any uncontrolled and non-prescribed combustion or burning of plants in a natural setting such as a forest, grassland, brush land or tundra, which consumes the natural fuels and spreads based on environmental conditions (e.g., wind, topography). Wildfire can be incited by human actions, such as land clearing, extreme drought or in rare cases by lightning (IRDR).

There are three conditions that need to be present in order for a wildfire to burn: fuel, oxygen, and a heat source. Fuel is any flammable material surrounding a fire, including trees, grasses, brush, even homes. The greater an area's fuel load, the more intense the fire. Air supplies the oxygen a fire needs to burn. Heat sources help spark the wildfire and bring fuel to temperatures hot enough to ignite. Lightning, burning campfires or cigarettes, hot winds, and even the sun can all provide sufficient heat to spark a wildfire (National Geographic).

Facts and figures

The Global Wildland Fire Network Bulletin published by the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) presents the most recent data regarding consequences of wildfire: in 2017, 36 fires in protected areas were recorded in 19 countries burning more than 196000 hectares worldwide.

Wildfire plays a mixed role for ecology and economy since some ecosystems depend on natural fires to maintaining their dynamics, biodiversity and productivity. However, every year, wildfires burn millions of hectares of forest woodlands and other vegetation, causing the loss of many human and animal lives and an immense economic damage, both in terms of resources destroyed and the costs of suppression. There are also impacts on society and the environment, such as damage to human health from smoke, loss of biological diversity, release of  greenhouse gases, damage to recreational values and infrastructure (FAO).

Most fires are caused by people. The list of human motivations include land clearing and other agricultural activities, maintenance of grasslands for livestock management, extraction of non-wood forest products, industrial development, resettlement, hunting, negligence and arson. Only in very remote areas of Canada and the Russian Federation lightning is a major cause of fires (FAO).

There are three basic types of wildfires:

  • Crown fires burn trees up their entire length to the top. These are the most intense and dangerous wildland fires.
  • Surface fires burn only surface litter and duff. These are the easiest fires to put out and cause the least damage to the forest.
  • Ground fires (sometimes called underground or subsurface fires) occur in deep accumulations of humus, peat and similar dead vegetation that become dry enough to burn. These fires move very slowly, but can become difficult to fully put out, or suppress (Government of Canada).

Related content

News

Major disasters such as droughts and wildfires are driven by the dryness of vegetation. To enhance the monitoring of plant water stress, NASA launched and installed a new sensor on the International Space Station. ECOSTRESS (ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station) allows identifying loss of water in leaves- even before they show visible signs of trouble.

The image to the left shows a product derived from ECOSTRESS data, indicating that the forest fires during the 2019 Amazon dry season... read more

Publishing date: 14/11/2019
A Sentinel-2 false colour image showing active fires in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Image: DLR/ZKI.

Satellite technology became an integral part of efforts to detect and contain forest fires in Mecklenburg Western Pomerania, Germany at the end of June and early July. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) used satellite information, along with images captured by the Modular Aerial Camera System (MACS), to create maps, which provided emergency services with up-... read more

Publishing date: 25/07/2019
Damage from a 7.4 earthquake and a tsunami that hit the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on 28 September 2018. Image: European Union/Pierre Prakash/Flickr.

In the past year, “there were 315 natural disaster events recorded with 11,804 deaths, over 68 million people affected, and US$131.7 billion in economic losses around the world.” This is according to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) in its recently released 2018 Natural Disasters Report

While these 2018 natural disaster values represent a decrease when compared with the annual averages from 2008 to 2017, some geographic areas still experienced great losses of life and damages due to natural hazards. Indonesia was most adversely impacted in terms of lives... read more

Publishing date: 01/07/2019

As part of the technical advisory support it provides to countries worldwide in making use of space-based information for disaster management, UN-SPIDER carries out an Institutional Strengthening Mission to Ecuador from 8 to 12 April 2019 upon the request of the Government of Ecuador. This activity is jointly organized by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), through its United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency... read more

Publishing date: 08/04/2019

Data Source

Publishing institution: Joint Research Center, European Commission (JRC)
GIS Malawi is a webmapper which provides various vector and raster layers covering a broad range of topics including natural hazards.
Publishing institution: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
The Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) produces high resolution laser ranging observations of the 3D structure of the Earth. GEDI’s precise measurements of forest canopy height, canopy vertical structure, and surface elevation greatly advance our ability to characterize important carbon and water cycling processes, biodiversity, and habitat. GEDI’s data on surface structure are valuable for weather forecasting, forest management, glacier and snowpack monitoring, and the generation of more accurate digital elevation models.

Recommended Practices

Los incendios forestales pueden resultar en la pérdida de vidas humanas. También tienen la capacidad de influir en diferentes procesos ecológicos, ya que son responsables de eliminar parcial o completamente la capa de vegetación (Petropoulos et al., 2014) Por lo tanto, es esencial evaluar la gravedad del área impactada. Por esta razón, esta práctica se desarrolló para ayudar a contribuir en la evaluación de áreas afectadas por incendios forestales. El análisis de estas áreas puede llevarse a cabo utilizando diferentes métodos a saber, en el suelo y utilizando herramientas de teledetección. La...

Event

Introductory Webinar: Earth Observations for Disaster Risk Assessment & Resilience

According to a UN report1, between 1998 and 2017, the U.S. alone lost USD$944.8 billion from disasters. Between 1978 and 2017, losses from extreme weather events rose by 251 percent. It is critical to develop disaster management strategies to reduce and mitigate disaster risks. A major factor in regional risk assessment is the evaluating the of lives and property to disasters. Environmental information about disasters, their spatial impact, and their temporal evolution can plan an important role as well.

This webinar series will focus on... read more

GP-STAR factsheet

Schematic Workflow for the derivation of an exemplary Sendai indicator using crisis information generated from satellite remote sensing (Source: own figure; Copernicus Emergency Management Service (©European Union), EMSN024, EMSN056)
Publishing institution: German Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance

To meet the global challenges, the United Nations adopted several framework agreements, including the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction at the Third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030). The framework builds the international reference point for disaster preparedness and focuses on... read more

Advisory Support

As part of the technical advisory support it provides to countries worldwide, UN-SPIDER carried out an Institutional Strengthening Mission to Republic of Ecuador from 8-12 April 2019 upon the request of the government. This activity was jointly organized by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), through its United Nations Platform for space-based information for disaster management and emergency response (UN-SPIDER) and the National Risk and Emergency Management Service of Ecuador. The Military Geographic Institute of Ecuador, the Agustín Codazzi Geographic Institute of Colombia (IGAC) and the Federal University of Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil supported the mission.

Mission dates: 08/04/2019 to 12/04/2019

Pages

Hazard group

Terms in the same hazard group

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.