Southeast Asia (07:04)
In 1997-98, the world’s worst forest fire raged through Indonesia; slash and burn clearance is practiced routinely to prepare for agriculture. Smoke, haze, and ash created health problems, crop failures, and transportation complications for neighboring nations.
After consecutive droughts, the National Park suffered the largest wildfire in its history; lightning and human carelessness ignited the blaze—strong winds spread it and created firestorms. August 20th, was dubbed “Black Saturday’;” 150,000 acres burned. Over 9,000 firefighters, and 4,000 military personnel were enlisted to combat the inferno.
The wildfires of 2007 were the worst in Greek history; 670,000 acres of forest and farmlands were incinerated. Severe droughts and heatwaves created perfect conditions; arsonists and electrical failures ignited the blaze. A state of emergency was declared; 84 people died and 110 villages were reduced to ashes.
Southern California (04:19)
The state’s ecology evolved through wildfires; annually firefighters utilize several methods to prevent and combat summer blazes. In October, 2003, 15 large fires burned for two weeks; 80,000 residents evacuated and 800,000 acres burned. Twenty-four people died, 3500 homes were destroyed, and one billion dollars in insurance claims were filed.
Forest Fire Study (03:08)
Scientists classify wildfires as ground fires, surface fires, and crown fires; all require oxygen, heat, and fuel. Lightning causes 70%, the remaining are man-made; subsistence farmers in South East Asia burn to create farmland and grazing pastures. Big agriculture increases controlled fires, plaguing Indonesians with health and ecological problem.
In January 1998, drought, high temperatures, and strong winds created conditions for the blaze that burned 250 miles of wilderness; raging until March, it displaced 30,000 people and killed 20,000 cattle. Authorities enlisted 1,000 firefighters to combat it, but the country did not have sufficient resources to extinguish the inferno.
Combating Blazes (04:14)
Firefighters battle forest fires through many methods. They first cut a fire line and then set backfires that will consume potential fuel; dirt, water, and chemicals are used to extinguish them. Airplanes and helicopters dump flame retardants and smoke jumpers wearing flame resistant clothing may parachute into the inferno’s center.
In February 2009, arsonists created the century’s deadliest fire for the Outback; it raged until March, killing 172 people, injuring 500, incinerating 4,000 buildings, and displacing 5,000 residents. Heat waves and drought created ideal conditions for the firestorm; energy created in one county was equivalent to 1,500 atomic bombs.
Epilogue: Forest Fires (01:45)
For 60,000 years, man has used fire for cooking, warmth, industry, and preparing farmlands. Wildfires are a natural part of the forest’s life cycle. Climate change and overpopulation create more than ecologies can adapt to.
Credits: The World's Worst Disasters: Forest Fires (00:32)
Credits: The World's Worst Disasters: Forest Fires
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