Wildfires - Bushfires

A wildfire, bushfire, wild land fire or rural fire is an unplanned, unwanted, uncontrolled fire in an area of combustible vegetation starting in rural areas and urban areas. Depending on the type of vegetation present, a wildfire can also be classified more specifically as a forest fire, brush fire, bushfire (in Australia), desert fire, grass fire, hill fire, peat fire, prairie fire, vegetation fire, or veld fire. Many organizations consider wildfire to mean an unplanned and unwanted fire, while wild land-fire is a broader term that includes prescribed fire as well as wildland fire use (WFU; these are also called monitored response fires).

Fossil charcoal indicates that wildfires began soon after the appearance of terrestrial plants 420 million years ago. 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. Earth is an intrinsically flammable planet owing to its cover of carbon-rich vegetation, seasonally dry climates, atmospheric oxygen, and widespread lightning and volcanic ignitions.

Wildfires can be characterized in terms of the cause of ignition, their physical properties, the combustible material present, and the effect of weather on the fire. Wildfires can cause damage to property and human life, although naturally occurring wildfires may have beneficial effects on native vegetation, animals, and ecosystems that have evolved with fire. Wildfire behavior and severity result from a combination of factors such as available fuels, physical setting, and weather.

Analyses of historical meteorological data and national fire records in western North America show the primacy of climate in driving large regional fires via wet periods that create substantial fuels, or drought and warming that extend conducive fire weather. Analyses of meteorological variables on wildfire risk have shown that relative humidity or precipitation can be used as good predictors for wildfire forecasting over the past several years.

High-severity wildfire creates complex early seral forest habitat (also called "snag forest habitat"), which often has higher species richness and diversity than an unburned old forest. Many plant species depend on the effects of fire for growth and reproduction. Wildfires in ecosystems where wildfire is uncommon or where non-native vegetation has encroached may have strongly negative ecological effects.

Wildfires are among the most common forms of natural disaster in some regions, including Siberia, California, and Australia. Areas with Mediterranean climates or in the taiga biome are particularly susceptible.

In the United States and other countries, aggressive wildfire suppression aimed at minimizing fire has contributed to accumulation of fuel loads, increasing the risk of large, catastrophic fires. In the United States especially, this wildfire suppression curtailed traditional land management methods practiced by Indigenous Peoples. Modern forest management taking an ecological perspective engages in controlled burns to mitigate this risk and promote natural forest life cycles. Read more

In the News

Canada Wildfire Smoke Crossed The Atlantic Ocean ... In September   - September 27, 2023

Canadian wildfire smoke has been pulled across the Atlantic Ocean as far east as Ireland, a strange sight for late September during the country's most prolific season of wildfires on record. Satellite imagery seemed to be fairly typical for September over the Atlantic Ocean. A pair of storms - one of which was named Storm Agnes by the U.K. Met Office - were lined up headed for Ireland and the U.K. H​owever, as the image below showed, there were also plumes of smoke from Canada across the ocean toward Ireland. The smoke was particularly dense over Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, even parts of Downeast Maine.

2023 Hawaii Wildfires   Wikipedia

In early August 2023, a series of wildfires broke out in Hawaii predominantly on the island of Maui. The wind-driven fires prompted evacuations, caused widespread damage and more. The death toll has become the deadliest in the United States since the Cloquet fire of 1918.

Joshua trees burn, massive wildfire threatens to forever alter Mojave Desert   PhysOrg - August 2, 2023

California's largest wildfire of the year has grown to over 80,000 acres in the desert around the Nevada border, burning primarily in the national preserve. Aided by brief rain, crews made the first real inroads against the blaze. Recovery is really not a meaningful term in the desert because of the global climate changes.

June 2023 - Canadian Wildfires Blanket US

May 2023

Canadian Wildfires Create Orange Haze and Stunning Sunsets - Rayleigh Scattering

Raging Canadian Wildfires Now in Nova Scotia  Earth Observatory (NASA) - May 29, 2023

Smoke from Canadian fires is pouring into the US and could linger for days   CNN - May 19, 2023

Like Hell On Earth: Chemical Reactions Fuel The Smoking Hills Of Canada   IFL Science - May 15, 2023

Wildfire Destruction in The Western US Has Doubled in Just 10 Years   Science Alert - February 2, 2023

Another above-average wildfire season for 2022. How climate change is making fires harder to predict and fight.   PhysOrg - December 30, 2022

Proliferating wildfires poison public health across the country   PhysOrg - October 18, 2022

The oldest evidence of wildfire has been identified in South Wales   BBC - June 27, 2022

Mythologized, memorialized then forgotten: A history of Australia's bushfire reporting   PhysOrg - January 18, 2022

Fire near Jerusalem forces village evacuations   PhysOrg - August 17, 2021

Spain sizzles in crushing heat as fires blaze   PhysOrg - August 16, 2021

For The 1st Time In Recorded History, Smoke From Wildfires Reaches The North Pole   NPR - August 11, 2021

Thick smoke over Athens as suburbs battle wildfires   PhysOrg - August 3, 2021

'A Chronic Lack of Fire': The Paradox Fueling Megafires in The US   Science Alert - August 3, 2021

91 large wildfires burning across the US   CNN - August 2, 2021

100 blazes have swept Turkey in the past week   CNN - August 2, 2021

Smoky Skies Prompt 911 Calls in Connecticut; State Issues Warning   NBC - July 27, 2021

Wildfire smoke in New England is 'pretty severe from public health perspective'   PhysOrg - July 27, 2021

Firefighters battle California blaze generating its own climate   PhysOrg - July 27, 2021

Possible future for Western wildfires: Decade-long burst, followed by gradual decline   PhysOrg - July 27, 2021

Thousands of animals perish, 1,500 people evacuate as massive wildfires ravage Sardinia, Italy   Watchers - July 27, 2021

Society is right on track for a global collapse, new study of infamous 1970s report finds   Live Science - July 20, 2021

Greece wildfires: Blaze forces evacuations on island of Samos   BBC - August 26, 2019

In pictures: Wildfires ignite across Indonesia   BBC - August 23, 2019

Wildfires rage in the Amazon   CNN - August 22, 2019

July 2021 - Smoke from West Coast Wildfires Blankets Northeast

The world is experiencing unprecedented flooding, record breaking temperatures, droughts, landslides, ice quakes, fire tornados, heat domes and other extreme weather conditions that are part of the closure of the simulation of reality.

CNN July 22, 2021 -- Wildfires are raging in unexpected parts of the globe as hot temperatures and dry conditions turn rarely burned places into tinderboxes. Near the Russian Siberian city known as the coldest in the world, fires have consumed more than 6.5 million acres since the start of the year. Most of Europe, the Western US, southwest Canada and some regions of South America experienced drier-than-average conditions in June, creating prime conditions for new blazes and making ongoing fires harder to battle. In California, Pacific Gas and Electric announced it will bury 10,000 miles of its power lines to reduce the risk of starting any more blazes. Equipment belonging to the nation's largest utility has played a role in sparking some of the deadliest wildfires in California.

July 20, 2021 - Smoke from West Coast Wildfires Wafts to East Coast

Ellie reporting from Bay Ridge Brooklyn

Wildfire smoke spreads across US in striking images from space Live Science

Massive wildfires in US West bring haze to East Coast PhysOrg

Video: Smoke From Western Wildfires Reaches Northeast Weather.com

Wildfire smoke from the West's massive blazes stretches all the way to the East Coast CNN