Uncontrolled fires in rural countryside or wilderness areas / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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A wildfire, forest fire, bushfire, wildland fire or rural fire is an unplanned, uncontrolled and unpredictable fire in an area of combustible vegetation.[1][2] Depending on the type of vegetation present, a wildfire may be more specifically identified as a bushfire (in Australia), desert fire, grass fire, hill fire, peat fire, prairie fire, vegetation fire, or veld fire.[3] Some natural forest ecosystems depend on wildfire.[4]

Wildfire burning in the Kaibab National Forest, Arizona, United States, in 2020. The Mangum Fire burned more than 70,000 acres (280 km2) of forest.

Wildfires are distinct from beneficial human usage of wildland fire, called controlled or prescribed burning, although controlled burns can turn into wildfires.

Fossil charcoal indicates that wildfires began soon after the appearance of terrestrial plants approximately 419 million years ago during the Silurian period.[5] Earth's carbon-rich vegetation, seasonally dry climates, atmospheric oxygen, and widespread lightning and volcanic ignitions create favorable conditions for fires.[6] The occurrence of wildfires throughout the history of terrestrial life invites conjecture that fire must have had pronounced evolutionary effects on most ecosystems' flora and fauna.[7]

Wildfires are often classified by characteristics like cause of ignition, physical properties, combustible material present, and the effect of weather on the fire.[8] Wildfire behavior and severity result from a combination of factors such as available fuels, physical setting, and weather.[9][10][11][12] Climatic cycles that include wet periods that create substantial fuels and then are followed by drought and heat often proceed severe wildfires.[13] These cycles have intensified by climate change.[14]

Naturally occurring wildfires[15] may have beneficial effects on native vegetation, animals, and ecosystems that have evolved with fire.[16][17] Many plant species depend on the effects of fire for growth and reproduction. [18] Some natural forest are dependent on wildfire.[19] High-severity wildfire may create complex early seral forest habitat (also called "snag forest habitat"), which may have higher species richness and diversity than an unburned old forest.

Alternatively, wildfires in ecosystems where wildfire is uncommon or where non-native vegetation has encroached may have strongly negative ecological effects.[8][Source does not support]

Human societies can be severely impacted by fires. Effects include the direct health impacts of smoke and fire, destruction of property(especially in wildland–urban interfaces) economic and ecosystem services losses, and contamination of water and soil.[14] There are also significant indirect or second-order societal impacts from wildfire, such as demands on utilities to prevent power transmission equipment from becoming ignition sources, and the cancelation or nonrenewal of homeowners insurance for residents living in wildfire-prone areas.[20]

Wildfires are among the most common forms of natural disaster in some regions, including Siberia, California, and Australia.[21][22][23] Areas with Mediterranean climates or in the taiga biome are particularly susceptible. At a global level, human practices have made the impacts of wildfire worse, with a doubling in land area burned by wildfires compared to natural levels.[14] Since records started at the beginning of the 20th century, wildfires have steadily declined.[24]

Humans have impacted wildfire through climate change, land-use change, and wildfire suppression.[14]

The increase in severity of fires[25] creates a positive feedback loop by releasing naturally sequestered carbon back into the atmosphere, increasing the atmosphere's greenhouse effect thereby contributing to climate change.[14]

Modern forest management often engages in prescribed burns to mitigate risk and promote natural forest cycles.