The most common hazard in forests is forests fire. Forests fires are as old as the forests themselves. They pose a threat not only to the forest wealth but also to the entire regime to fauna and flora seriously disturbing the bio-diversity and the ecology and environment of a region. During summer, when there is no rain for months, the forests become littered with dry senescent leaves and twinges, which could burst into flames ignited by the slightest spark. The Himalayan forests, particularly, Garhwal Himalayas as well as forests in Eastern and Western Ghats have been burning regularly during the last few summers, with colossal loss of vegetation cover of that region.
A report titled Forest Fire Disaster Management, prepared by the National Institute of Disaster Management, a body under the Ministry of Home Affairs, in 2012, said about half of India’s forests were prone to fires. 43% were prone to occasional fires and 5% to frequent fires, and 1% were at high or very high risk, the report said, quoting data from Forest Survey of India’s State Forest Report, 1995, a compilation of 25 years of observations and analyses.
Causes of Forest Fire
Forest fires are caused by Natural causes as well as Man made causes
Natural causes- Many forest fires start from natural causes such as lightning which set trees on fire. However, rain extinguishes such fires without causing much damage. High atmospheric temperatures and dryness (low humidity) offer favorable circumstance for a fire to start.
Man made causes- Fire is caused when a source of fire like naked flame, • cigarette or bidi, electric spark or any source of ignition comes into contact with inflammable material.
Highly inflammable material of dry chir pine trees on the forest floor.
Migration. : People are not willing to stay in their home place and thus work in forest. This leads to accumulation of chir pine in forest.
Classification of forest fire (see the picture below)
Types of forest fire: (see the picture below)
The followings are the important precautions against fire:
To keep the source of fire or source of ignition separated from combustible and inflammable material.
To keep the source of fire under watch and control.
Not allow combustible or inflammable material to pile up unnecessarily and to stock the same as per procedure recommended for safe storage of such combustible or inflammable material.
To adopt safe practices in areas near forests viz. factories, coalmines, oil stores, chemical plants and even in household kitchens.
To incorporate fire reducing and fire fighting techniques and equipment while planning a building or coal mining operation. In case of forest fires, the volunteer teams are essential not only for fire fighting but also to keep watch on the start of forest and sound an alert.
To arrange fire fighting drills frequently.
Impact of Forest Fires on Biological Environment:
Forest fires pose serious health hazards by producing smoke and noxious gases, as the events in Indonesia after the forest fires on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo in 1977 have shown.
The burning of vegetation gives off not only carbon dioxide but also a host of other, noxious gases (Green house gases) such as carbon monoxide, methane, hydrocarbons, nitric oxide and nitrous oxide, that lead to global warming and ozone layer depletion.
Consequently, thousands of people suffered from serious respiratory problems due to these toxic gases. Burning forests and grasslands also add to already serious threat of global warming.
Recent measurement suggest that biomass burning may be a significant global source of methyl bromide, which is an ozone depleting chemical.
There are already preventive and remedial measures for forest fires, implemented by the state and central government in vulnerable areas with sufficient funds allocated to it.
There is scope for involving local communities, NGOs and community based organizations to minimize fire hazards.
Van Panchayats is a unique model in Uttarakhand, which can be adopted by states in the southern part of India such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Creation of forest SHGs and Local Forest SPVs.
Plantation of indigenous broad-leaved, moisture conserving species, particularly banj oak, Myrica, Alder, Rhododendron etc.