Southeast Asia Fires (03:04)
Forest fires are common during hot, dry seasons but some of the worst events occur in the tropics. In 1997 and 1998, an out of control prescribed fire burned, exacerbated by the El Niño phenomenon, destroyed 15 million acres in Indonesia.
Long Term Effects (04:00)
Smoke from the Southeast Asia fires spread from the Philippines to Northern Australia—affecting agriculture, transport, and public health. By 1998, the regional economy and environment suffered damage; peat fires still flare up today.
Forest Fire Elements (02:19)
Wildfires burn uncontrolled according to wind direction; front flames can reach 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit and travel up to 30 mph. Fires produce carbon monoxide and can create their own weather systems, including pyrocumulous clouds and flame “tornadoes” that hamper firefighting efforts.
Yellowstone Fires (02:18)
In 1988, drought conditions sparked fires in Wyoming—the largest in recorded history. Park managers let some burn to respect the forest's natural life cycle but they got out of hand and firefighters were drafted from across the U.S.
Yellowstone Fire Aftermath (03:33)
Thousands of firefighters and military personnel were unable to curb fast moving flames in the national park. Rains finally extinguished the fires; 793,000 acres were destroyed. Plant species quickly reestablished themselves; learn about the role of fire in ecosystem regeneration.
Greece Wildfires (02:18)
The Greek government hoped for swift regeneration after the 2006 and 2007 fires that destroyed 670,000 acres of forest, olive groves, and farmland. Heat waves brought drought conditions; arsonists and lightning started the blazes.
Greece Wildfire Relief Efforts (03:03)
Fires burned from June to September 2007, affecting the Peloponnese and Euboea. The PM requested help from EU members; special units rescued people trapped in mountain villages and protected Athens archaeological sites. Forest regeneration will take decades.
Southern California Fires (02:07)
California's ecology evolved through fire; forest managers use goats to reduce dry vegetation in residential areas. In 2003, wildfires forced 80,000 people to evacuate homes.
Southern California Fire Aftermath (02:10)
Witnesses describe 150 foot flames; 800,000 acres and 3,500 homes were destroyed. Smoke spread for hundreds of miles, interrupting air travel and posing a public health threat.
Wildfire Origins (03:10)
Scientists classified ground, surface, and crown fires. Wildfires need oxygen, heat, and fuel; 70% are started by lightning. Many wildfires are deliberately started to clear growth as a forest management strategy or for subsistence farming.
Brazil Rain Forest Fires (03:32)
In 1998, drought and strong winds contributed to 250 miles burned in Roraima, threatening Yanomami tribal land. Members worried clearing the forest would lead to resource exploitation. Fires now occur every year, and the government lacks technology to control large scale burns.
Fighting Wildfires (02:31)
Forest firefighters use special techniques and equipment; learn about fire lines and back fires. Helicopters and planes drop water and flame retardant.
Smoke Jumpers (01:47)
Some firefighters parachute into remote regions to fight fires near the source. They wear flame resistant clothing and carry fire shelters designed to deflect heat. They must extinguish all embers.
Victoria Wildfires (03:10)
Australian firefighters combat bush fires every year, many started by arsonists. In 2009, fire destroyed 850 square miles and 4,000 buildings; 173 people died.
Fleeing Victoria Wildfires (02:39)
Survivors describe trying to outrun walls of flame in their cars; 20 people burned in vehicles. Australian police say that arsonists set many of the 2009; 35,000 firefighters were unable to control the fire storm.
Wildfire Outlook (01:47)
Humans have used fire as a tool for more than 60,000 years and forests need fire to clear undergrowth and regenerate ecosystems. Unnatural fires are increasing as the population spreads; forests need protection as a vital Earth resource.
Credits: World’s Worst Forest Fires: The World's Worst Disasters (00:54)
Credits: World’s Worst Forest Fires: The World's Worst Disasters
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