A wildfire is a fire that starts in an area with plants that can catch fire. Both people and natural things can start wildfires. Depending on where they are and what kind of plants they are burning, these fires are called bushfires, forest fires, desert fires, peat fires, and so on.
Wildfires can be very dangerous and spread quickly, destroying a lot of land in a short amount of time. Here are some of the bad things that can happen because of a wildfire:
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There is a significant loss to the economy.
Everything that a wildfire burns up is destroyed. So, the fire could destroy many lands that could be used for farming or forestry. Farmers lose their crops and animals in just a few hours to a few days, a big hit to their economy.
Those whose income comes from the forest industry also lose a lot. If the destroyed areas were part of a popular tourist spot, then the tourism industry in the area would also suffer.
Even though the fire directly hurts these businesses and communities, other businesses and communities are also hurt by wildfires. In these fires, people also lose their things.
The direct costs of fighting fires are also high and are often paid for by the government. A lot of money is also spent on cleaning up after a fire.
Heritage from the area could be lost.
If the fire spreads to an area with beautiful ancient environment features or archeological remains, these pieces of local history could be lost.
The damage can happen both while the fire is going on and after it is over. The lack of plants could make these features more vulnerable to the eroding effects of wind and water, which would speed up their demise.
The storage and sequestration of carbon are affected.
Forests act as carbon sinks because they take in carbon dioxide from the air and lower the amount of this harmful gas in the air. When wildfires happen, they destroy the beneficial plant cover, which hurts the sequestration and storage of carbon.
When wildfires happen, the whole ecosystem fails. Large areas are being cleared of plants. Burning kills many animals, birds, reptiles, and insects. Others die from lack of food or stress. So, one of the worst things about a wildfire is that it kills a lot of species.
High amounts of soil loss
When wildfires kill all the plants, the soil is left bare. This soil is very likely to be worn away by wind or water. Most of the time, areas, where wildfires have burned, take a long time to recover or become permanently barren.
High levels of pollution in the air and water
Toxic gases and particles can get into the air from smoke and ash from fires. As a result of a wildfire, the loss of plants can also cause the soil to erode and water bodies to become contaminated by the soil and dead plants and animals.
Wildfires can cause the end of a species.
The species most likely to go extinct are the ones with the smallest ranges. A single disaster can wipe out the whole population of such species. So, wildfires that get out of control can potentially wipe out a species in the wild.
Because of this, the IUCN Red List lists fire and fire suppression as one of the main threats to more than 100 species in Australia that are already in danger.
Bushfires have recently destroyed 90% of the known home range of the Western ground parrot, a bird whose population was thought to be 140 before the fires.
Wildfires have harmful effects on health.
The smoke and ash from wildfires pollute the air and make people sick when they breathe it in. People who live close to the fire often have breathing problems, respiratory infections, headaches, dizziness, eye irritation, and other health problems.
Humans die in wildfires.
People can often die in wildfires if they don’t leave in time to avoid them. This is because wildfires spread quickly. But some people stay in their homes even though they have been told to leave because they hope the fire won’t reach them.
Several of these people die in the fire. For example, in July 2018, six people died in a wildfire in northern California. More than 1,000 people have died in the worst wildfires.
Increased susceptibility to other natural disasters
Since vegetation cover is essential to keep the soil from being washed away by strong winds and floods, losing it makes the area more likely to be hit by natural disasters. When plants are destroyed by fire, big floods or storms are more likely to hit the area.