Home   »   Forest Fires

Forest Fires

Context: An inquiry into the forest fires incident in Goa has indicated natural causes as the main reason for the incident.

Stats IQ: Forest fires in India

  • Council of Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW):
    • According to this public policy think tank, there is a tenfold increase in forest fire incidents over the past two decades.
    • More than 62% of Indian states are vulnerable to high-intensity forest fires. These include Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Telangana, and the Northeastern states.
    • Among all states, Mizoram has witnessed the highest incidence of forest fires over the last two decades. About 95% of its districts are forest fire hotspots.
  • India State of Forest Report (ISFR):
    • More than 36% of India’s forest cover is vulnerable to frequent forest fires, 6% is ‘very highly’ fire-prone, and almost 4% is ‘extremely’ prone (2021 report).
    • The normal season of forest fires extends from November to June, and majority of fires are caused by man-made factors.
    • Madhya Pradesh saw the highest number of fire incidents, followed by Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, between November 2021 and June 2022.
  • A FSI study also found that nearly 10.66% area under forests in India is ‘extremely’ to ‘very highly’ fire prone.

What are Forest Fires?

  • Forest fires, also known as bush fires or wildfires, are an unplanned, uncontrolled and unpredictable fire in an area of combustible vegetation.
  • Forest fires are both natural and man-made. They are sometimes a way of regulating native vegetation, animals, and ecosystems.
  • Various reasons for occurrence of forest fires:
    • Natural causes:
      • Lightning strikes: Lightning strikes on trees can trigger forest fires. Studies have found that such incidence of lightning strikes have increased due to climate change.
      • Volcanic eruption: The extreme heat of lava, as a result of volcanic eruption, may cause vegetation to catch fire and spread, resulting in a forest fires.
      • Friction between trees or rocks: Rubbing of trees with each other may generate sparks that can easily ignite dry grasses. Similarly, falling of rocks may trigger sparks to cause forest fires.
      • Spontaneous combustion: Prolonged dry spell, followed by unprecedented high temperatures and low humidity can make vegetation so dry that sun rays can also trigger fires.
    • Anthropogenic causes:
      • Agriculture expansion: Slash and burn agricultural practice is one of the main reasons for spread of forest fires across the world.
      • Poaching: Poachers in many parts of the world use fires to catch animals. Such fires many intensify and turn into forest fires.
      • Recreation: Smoking and campfires have the capability to trigger forest fires. Studies have found that cigarette residue is the main cause of man-made forest fire.
      • Electric spark: Overhead electric cables may sometimes burn as a result of overheating. This can trigger fires in areas where vegetation is already dry.

Connection between Climate change and Forest Fires

  • Global warming: Climate change and global warming has increased temperatures, leading to longer dry spells. This facilitates drying of vegetation, making them vulnerable.
  • Decline in duration of rainy season: Even though the intensity of rains has increased, it is concentrated within a short period. Increase in dry season has allowed vegetation to turn into tinder box.
  • Increase in lightning: Studies have indicated that there will be more frequent incidences of lightning due to climate change. Such lightning incidents can trigger forest fires.
  • Heatwaves: Heatwaves incidents have drastically increased across the world because of climate change. Heatwave conditions are optimal for forest fire incidents.

Tackling forest fires

  • Controlled burning: Vulnerable areas must be mapped and preemptively burnt in a controlled manner. This will save larger areas that may have been burnt in case of forest fires.
  • Water buffers: Water channels must be constructed within large parcels of vulnerable land (especially grasslands and shrubs) to prevent spread of fires.
  • Awareness creation: Forest dwelling communities must be sensitized about the effects of intentional burning. Reducing human-caused ignitions may be the most effective means of reducing unwanted wildfire.
  • Stringent laws: Stringent laws must be introduced that penalizes intentional forest fires. This can act as a deterrent against such actions.

Forest Fire Management under National Forest Policy

  • The policy aims to prepare a strong data base / network on forest fires and evolve an appropriate method to deal with the forest fire situation in more effective manner.
  • Under the policy, an Early Warning Fire Forecasting System utilizing satellite data and Fire Danger Rating System for early detection of forest fire has been introduced.
  • Some actions suggested under the policy:
    • Preventive actions: A preventive program consisting of zoning, danger rating, early warning and real time monitoring must be developed and implemented.
    • Inter-agency coordination: Forest department needs to coordinate with National Remote Sensing Agency, Forest Survey of India, the Meteorological Department, the All India Radio and the State-owned television to plan their actions in the fire season.
    • Increase vigilance: Vigilance must be increased in vulnerable areas. For that adequate number of firewatchers must be appointed.
    • Communication network: Accessibility to vulnerable areas must be enhanced so as to enable quick transport of human and materials from one area to another.
    • Awareness campaign: An awareness campaign involving schools, Joint Forest Management (JFM) committees, NGOs and other groups must be initiated to handle fire damage, prevention, detection and communication and suppression.
    • Training: Training must be provided to fire managers, including trainers at JFM unit levels. This will empower them to take effective actions during forest fires.

Sharing is caring!

Download your free content now!


We have received your details!

We'll share General Studies Study Material on your E-mail Id.

Download your free content now!

We have already received your details!

We'll share General Studies Study Material on your E-mail Id.

Incorrect details? Fill the form again here

General Studies PDF

Thank You, Your details have been submitted we will get back to you.