Fires around the world are now dramatic killing people in California and harmed several billion animals in Australia.
Wildfires are common in hotter places such as Australia and California but recently, there has been an increase in wildfires in colder parts of the world such as Siberia and the UK.
Back in 2018, the UK experienced one of its largest wildfires in decades in the Saddleworth Moor peatland. The fire was caused by drier and hotter weather conditions, with that summer being the driest June for over ten years. The UK has already been hit with over 100 large wildfires over 2019 – making it the worst year on record.
Though the changing climate is a major reason that fires are occurring more often, ignition accidents such as barbequing also pose a significant threat. Therefore, fire safety is essential in preventing further wildfires in colder climates such as Siberia, but also warmer climates too!
In addition to climate change, lightning strikes in the Arctic have increased by three times averaging 200 000 per year between 2010 and 2020.
Fires need dry fuel, ignition and air (oxygen). Warming and drought weaken trees and insect pests kill them providing fuel for fires.
You can avoid ignition by not having a barbeque, disposable barbecues are one of the main causes of accidental wildfires. Instead, bring a picnic!
A bottle top or a magnifying glass can even cause a wildfire. The sun's rays can be magnified with the glass, causing the rays to be focused on the vegetation – starting a fire that can easily turn into an uncontrollable wildfire.
There are different types of fires. Tundra fires, peatland fires, forest crown fires, and forest surface fires.
Photo: Remains of a forest fire in Siberia (V. Kharuk)
Throughout the summer, the Arctic can be susceptible to wild fires. However, as the seasons change, the temperature cools and the weather gets increasingly wet, so most of the fires are extinguished. Going into Spring however, causes the peaty soils to dry out and the fires can come alive again – just like zombies – and turn into large wildfires!
Even tundra can burn, thawing permafrost and releasing carbon.
Illustration of zombie fires and how they can surface after a year | Permission from Rein, 2009
How to make a safe fire
Things to bear in mind when choosing your area to build the fire
Choose an area far enough away from trees and bushes
Choose somewhere with a natural windbreak
Make a fire ring with stones
Have a bucket with water nearby
To prepare a fire, you need fuel, heat and air (oxygen)
Tinder – twigs, leaves, bark, paper
Kindling – small sticks
Firewood – Small logs then larger logs
Building the fire
A classic way to build a fire is by placing your logs in a tepee or crisscross shape – this allows oxygen to circulate underneath the fire and lets the fire build up slowly