Let’s fight the fire

Wild fires are destroying forests at amazing speed. Besides the destruction, the smoke and the soot are particularly harmful.

he summer sun is harsh. It beats down mercilessly, drinking up any moisture that may be in the air or on the ground. The earth is parched. It is a tinderbox. A spark…a fire…and total destruction.

This year, forest fires across the world have been more brutal, more damaging than ever before. From Siberia to India, California to Indonesia our forests have transformed into furnaces. The magnitude of this year’s blazes has been exceptional. Fires have swept across millions of acres enveloping entire cities in black, acrid smoke and noxious fumes. This disaster is but the forerunner of a greater one — the acceleration of the melting of the Arctic.

In Siberia, Russia more than 7.9 million acres are in the grip of fires. Triggered by dry thunderstorms and strong winds the fire spread easily. According to the Associated Press, the regions of Irkutsk, Buryatia, Sakha and Krasnoyarsk have declared states of emergency as the smoke chokes cities downwind. Smoke can be hazardous, especially for the young or elderly.

Environmentalists say that this year, almost 12 million hectares burned causing significant carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and reducing the future capacity of forests to absorb the CO2. However, that’s not all. “Then there is the added problem that soot falling on ice or snow melts and darkens it, thus reducing the reflectiveness of the surface and trapping more heat,” says the World Meteorological Organization.

Across the globe

In Alaska, 145,321 acres burned this year, according to the Alaska Wildland Fire Information. The Hess Creek Fire has been burning since June 21 in the middle of the state near Livengood.

Indonesia has deployed its military and police personnel to douse forest fires. In six provinces on the island of Sumatra and in the province of Kalimantan on Borneo island an emergency was declared.

Thanks to climate change and global warming, the Seattle suburb of Issaquah, famous for its rainfall, is now at an increasing risk of wildfires. Global warming brings with it higher temperatures, lower humidity and longer stretches of drought.

A national climate assessment prepared by 13 federal agencies and released in 2018 said the Pacific Northwest had seen an increase in temperature of almost 2° F since 1900 and that it will keep increasing through the century, leading to warmer winters and less mountain snowpack.

India too has not been spared. Early this year, the Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka burst into flames thanks to the dry grass and wild plants. More than 10,000 acres of forest was destroyed. The winds helped the fire spread into neighbouring Mudumalai Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu.

Sparking away

The most common cause of a fire is arson. A burning cigarette butt, a smouldering camp fire and so on.

Some fires are caused by overheated equipment, leaking oil or fuel or by burning debris.

Camp fires are fun, but the chances of it growing out of control is high.

What can you do? Plant more trees.

What Smokey says:

Ever since his rescue from a raging forest fire, Smokey the Bear has been a symbol of the U.S.’ national effort to fight fires.

Only you can prevent wildfires

Always be careful with fire

Never play with matches or lighters

Always watch your camp fire

Make sure your camp fire is completely out before leaving it

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