Forest fires can be destructive and dangerous. Lightning causes some forest fires, but most are started by people. Some people even start fires on purpose, which is a crime — it is against the law to start forest fires on purpose. Most of the time, however, people start fires by accident as a result of being careless. For example, sometimes people burn trash or other loose articles. The wind can pick up this burning trash and bring it to the forest, causing the forest to catch on fire. Other times, people forget to put out their campfires. This can cause a forest fire, too, as these people did not mean to start a fire (but they did anyway).
How To Stop Them
The majority of forest fires need to be stopped as quickly as possible. Time to get out the water hoses, right? Actually, firefighters don’t use water hoses to fight forest fires as most forest fires are too big for that. So, firefighters try to fight the fire in other ways.
One way to fight a fire is to make a fireline. A fireline is a place where nothing can burn. In a fireline, there are no plants, trees, grasses, straw, etc. — only dirt. With nothing flammable in its path, the fire simply runs out of things to burn. Eventually, it dies out.
Another way to fight fires is to use special planes called airtankers. Airtankers have big tanks that can hold 10,000 gallons of water. Firefighters fill the tanks with water and then they fly the planes over the fire. When they get directly overhead, they dump out the water. This water puts the fire out.
Let ’em Burn!
Although firefighters usually work to stop forest fires, sometimes they just let them burn. That’s because some forest fires can actually be good. Forest fires help to protect big trees and cause new trees to grow.
Forest fires protect big trees by burning away underbrush*. Underbrush grows around the base of big trees, and too much of it can hurt them. It steals their water and it takes up their space. Forest fires help by clearing the underbrush away, leaving the big trees unharmed. With the underbrush gone, the big trees have more water. They also have more space, and this helps them to survive and grow.
Some forest fires also cause new trees to grow. They do this by burning away dead trees. Old, dead trees are dry, so they burn fast. New, young trees are not dry, so they do not burn as fast. Sometimes, forest fires burn up dead trees and leave newer trees completely unharmed. The new trees are left there to grow.
Forest fires are usually bad, but they can also be good. Without fires, we might not have any forests.
Bailey, Joyce. “Forest Fires.” Discovery Education. Web. 2014. Retrieved 24 Sep. 2014.
Guntzel, Jeff Severns. “Why Forest Fires are Good — and Amazing.” MinnPost. Web. 23 Sep. 2011. Retrieved 24 Sep. 2014.
Peluso, Beth A. The Charcoal Forest: How Fire Helps Animals and Plants. Missoula: Mountain Press, 2007.