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Wildfires are common in many places around the world, including much of the vegetated areas of Australia as well as the veld in the interior and the fynbos in the Western Cape of South Africa. The forested areas of the United States and Canada are also susceptible to wildfires. The climates are sufficiently moist to allow the growth of trees, but feature extended dry, hot periods. Fires are particularly prevalent in the summer and fall, and during droughts when fallen branches, leaves, and other material can dry out and become highly flammable. Wildfires are also common in grasslands and scrublands.

Wildfires tend to be most common and severe during years of drought and occur on days of strong winds. With extensive urbanization of wildlands, these fires often involve destruction of suburban homes located in the wildland urban interface, a zone of transition between developed areas and undeveloped wildland.

Today it is accepted that wildfires are a natural, necessary part of the ecosystem of wildlands, where plants have evolved to survive fires by a variety of strategies (from possessing reserve shoots that sprout after a fire, to fire-resistant seeds), or even encourage fire (for example eucalypts contain flammable oils in their leaves) as a way to eliminate competition from less fire-tolerant species. In 2004, researchers discovered that exposure to smoke from burning plants actually promotes germination in other types of plants by inducing the production of the orange butenolide. Most native animals, too, are adept at surviving wildfires.

On occasions, wildfires have caused large-scale damage to private or public property, destroying many homes and causing deaths, particularly when they have reached urban-fringe communities. Wildfires are extremely dangerous,but some are purposely caused.

*Information and picture from

Good advice on wildfires from

What to do

Before a wildfire

During a wildfire

After a wildfire

See also :

Vocabulary : Natural Disasters 

Words in the News.


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