A wildfire is an uncontrolled, unpredictable fire that is prone to spreading rapidly through areas of vegetation. Fires like these can occur all over the world, but they’re far more prevalent in particularly hot countries, where long weeks of dry, hot weather has left vegetation more vulnerable.
We often hear wildfires being reported on in the news, but did you know that fires like these can be quite different? There are in fact three main forms of wildfire, with almost every large fire that we hear about falling into one of these three categories.
In this article, we’ll take you through the three different types of wildfire, explaining the differences between them so that you’ll be able to distinguish between them in the future. Here are the three key types of wildfire to be aware of.
When we think of wildfires, we usually think of the huge, incredibly dangerous fires with flames the height of houses. But fires like these often originate from another very dangerous form of wildfire: the ground fire.
Ground fires start, as the name suggests, at ground level. They burn organic matter in the soil, such as plant roots. Usually, these fires occur in areas where the soil is particularly dense in such fuels.
Once ground fires get started, they can easily smoulder from incredibly long periods of time. It’s not uncommon for a ground fire to smoulder for an entire summer season in certain parts of the world.
While ground fires on their own do not tend to cause much damage, the danger they present can quickly skyrocket when weather conditions allow them to grow. When this occurs, the ground fire can transform into either a crown or surface fire. That’s when any surrounding properties are at real risk.
Ground fires are very difficult to control, because it’s not easy to see them smouldering beneath the surface of the ground. Their longevity also makes them dangerous, as they can easily burn for a considerable period of time without drawing much attention. However, they don’t spread easily, and this does limit the amount of damage such fires can cause.
Some ground fires will become surface fires. These wildfires range in intensity, with some being relatively harmless while others are far more dangerous. Surface fires burn from the surface of the ground, using natural vegetation such as dried plants and leaves as their fuel.
The flames of surface fires don’t tend to reach the dizzying heights of a forest canopy, but trees can be scorched and burned by the heat of a surface fire. While the vast majority of surface fires don’t turn into anything more damaging, there is a real possibility of serious harm coming from a surface fire that gets out of control.
Specific weather conditions and favourable landscaping can make it much easier for surface fires to grow in both size and intensity. If the weather is hot and windy, a surface fire can spread much more quickly, with heat and intensity rising as it does so. Similarly, certain environments such as wide, sloping hills can encourage fires like these to spread.
Crown fires are by far the most damaging form of wildfire. These fires are capable of spreading incredibly quickly, leaving a trail of smouldering debris in their wake.
A crown fire is one which burns from the tops of trees. Once it’s alight at the top of a tree canopy, it can easily jump from tree to tree, spreading at an alarming rate.
The height of crown fires makes them particularly hazardous, as they are far more likely to be spread by high winds at the tops of trees. This can enable them to jump quickly from a tree to a nearby building, so property is at serious risk if a crown fire is burning nearby.
The speed at which crown fires can spread also affects their intensity. These fast moving fires tend to be very intense, burning at extreme temperatures that leave even well protected buildings vulnerable to their flames.
Crown fires are by far the biggest risk when we think about wildfire mitigation. It’s always worth taking every precaution to give your home an extra level of protection from fires like these, as once they’re on the move they can be very difficult to slow down.
Being able to tell wildfires apart is an important skill, because it provides you with the information you need to fight them more effectively. If you’d like to learn more about wildfire prevention, or you need any advice on the best products to help you protect your property from wildfires in your area, we’re here to help. Get in touch with our team and we’ll be happy to advise you on which of our wildfire prevention products would best suit your needs.