Occurrence of wildfire causes severe damages to human beings, animals and the environment since they are very difficult to control once it affects a particular area. More often than not wildfires are influenced by natural circumstances like prolonged dry spell as well as drought, and affect large areas. The average frequency of wildfire occurrences has been stagnant in the past 30 years as indicated by a research carried out by Dennison, Brewer, Arnold and Moritz (9), yet alarming. Wildfires is a global problem as the possibility of its occurrence is high during the dry season in tropical countries and during summer as it is normally facilitated by dry grass that covers a large area considering the undesirable current change in climate that has resulted to prolonged drought in several areas due to global warming. As destructive as these wildfires are, the unfortunate thing is the circumstance revolving around their initiation as they are often initiated by an action just as simple as disposing a lit match stick on the grass after lighting a cigar ate or dumping a lit cigarette on the dry grass completely unaware of its impact. These paper discuses wildfires dreadful impacts on human life, economy, animals, environment by wiping forests, and the ecosystem at large as it results to direct and indirect damage of invaluable resources as well as properties, loss of human life inclusive, and the possible preventive measures to minimize the occurrence of wildfires both in the short and long term.
Wildfires destroy people’s homes leaving them homeless thus forcing them to flee and live as refugees for a certain period of time until they reconstruct their homes or build a new home depending on their preference and capabilities. Homes located within or close to the plains where there are dry grasses and bushes do not always escape destruction in the event of a wildfire breakout near their homes. The damage of homes by wildfire is immeasurable and disheartening as the owners have to watch the fruits of their life time hard work and sweat go down within hours. The extent of damages to homes depends on a number of factors such as the distance between the home and the origin of fire as some homes are completely burnt down while others escape total destructions although loses their aesthetic value and visual appeal and leaves the owners mourning as implied by Bracmort (23).
Another depressing unfortunate loss cause by wildfire is that human life. Most of the time wildfire events catches people unaware and spread faster as it is facilitated by wind in a vigorous manner such that the only chance of survival would be fleeing the area. Often, the fire spreads in a such a pace that disadvantaged members of the society like the sick, children and physically challenged may not be able to keep up giving the able a choice between saving their lives or that of those they love which is often difficult to make thus resulting to the death of a lot of people in the end. The loss of lives is more severe when the fire occurs at night. This is because it completely catches people off guard and darkness that make fleeing cumbersome as explicated by Rowell (68)
Unfortunately, the fortunate survivors are not entirely safe as wildfire results to alteration of their immune system. The smoke and ashes inhaled by the victims do interfere with their respiratory systems and general function of the body as they have short and long term side effects. For instance, inhalation of large amounts of smoke could lead to difficulty in breathing facilitating the infection of heart and lung diseases. In addition a victim’s trachea system could be blocked by smoke thus may choke to death since the smoke produced by wildfire is often very intense and contaminated. The resulting ashes are not safe either as they are also contaminated thus result to different health problems, both acute and mild like coughs as implied by case studies (4). The victims of wildfires also exhibit elements of posttraumatic distress as it results to extreme, dreadful emotions.
In addition, wildfires contribute to hunger outbreak. Wildfire sweeps everything in its way, be it ready crops in the field or animals grazing or the stored ones at home. Research indicates that wildfire contributes to hunger and poverty in many regions as it drastically drains the people’s food stuff unexpected leaving them with nothing to call food. The timing of most wildfires is normally disadvantageous as it occurs majorly during the harvesting season just at the onset of the drying periods of crops like maize. This wrong timing of wildfire leaves people starved with no option but to depend on well-wishers and good Samaritans of which is not guaranteed hence may starve to death in the long run as illustrated by Rowell (70).
Moreover, Rowell (72) states that the unexpected damage caused by wildfire on the individual’s property forces them to incur immense unplanned repair costs. This does contribute to poverty and low standard of living as the funds that could have been channeled to development is used to fund repairs that are often costly as it directly destroys property. Wildfires also lead to destructions of resources like damaging agricultural land, trees and land in general. In agriculture, burning land as a method of clearance is discouraged as it damages the nutrients. Similarly, wildfires reduce the fertility level of agricultural land as it eradicates worms and living creatures that aid in formation of nutrients thus contribute to the fertility of the land. This interference of agricultural land by wildfires leads to poor harvest in both quality and quantity for the subsequent farming periods and give the inhabitants difficult time in trying to restore its fertility as implied by Rowell (77).
Rowell (83) claims that wildfires aid in the destruction of the environment as it leads to clearance of natural bushes, destruction of trees and forests that in the long run contributes to desertification and increasing change in climate that in turn leads to prolonged droughts and hunger. Furthermore, wildfire destroys wildlife and the aesthetic nature of the environment as it burns down grasses, flowerers, trees, and destroying or displacing wild creatures like snakes and butterflies since it burns down their inhabitants. The wild animals fortunate enough to escape are forced to find themselves a new home that may not entirely supports their living condition such that if they are unable to adopt to their new environment, then they become extinct hence negatively affecting the tourism industry and thus the general economy. Wildfire imbalances the ecosystem posing a threat to harmonious coexistence of living and nonliving creatures, human beings inclusive, contributing to the adaptive dynamic mechanisms exhibited by all creatures in an attempt to survive according to Rowell (85).
The damages caused by wildfires are heartbreaking and distressing. Therefore, for the sake of preserving lives, enhancing economic and living standards as well as preserving environmental destruction, it is necessary to prevent the occurrence of wildfire. Research has confirmed that stemming a wildfire in progress is difficult thus leaving prevention as the most effective control measure against wildfires. Wildfires are normally caused by disposed unfinished lit cigarettes and match sticks on dry grass, a habit common among cattle grazers, or lighting of fire in the bushes by hunters as stated by. Therefore, education of the society on shying away from such high risky activities would be useful in prevention as research and analysis conducted by Yablecki, Bibeau, and Doug (12) indicates ignorance as a major threat to the fight against wildfires and forests preservation as the risky practices are normally unintentional and catching the perpetrator is difficult and often impossible rendering legislation as a preventive measure ineffective. Parents should also ensure their children do not play games involving lighting of fire close to dry grass as the grasses are normally very dry thus catches fire easily as explicated by Mendes (5).
In addition, clearing farming land by burning has also been suggested by Rowell (16) as a possible cause of wildfires. In the process of burning the farm, the wind may facilitate faster spread of the fire making it difficult for the farmer (burner) to control it spread thus at the end of the day affects an a very extensive area that was unintended and the damage would complete. This cause of wildfires is as a result of pure ignorance or neglect of safe agricultural practices since as much as burning is faster and cheaper method of land clearance at the end of the day it is costly. Therefore, awareness ought to be created especially in the rural areas on the dangers of the use of fire as a land clearance mechanism not because it destroys nutrients but because of the severe long term costs of wildfire that it may cause. This requires combined efforts of all members of the society that can be achieved by being one another’s custodian and being vigilant concerning healthy practices for ourselves, others and the society at large as recommended by Yablecki, Bibeau, and Doug (18).
Another precaution against wildfire would be to plant more trees. The society ought to consider planting a lot of trees during the raining season and nurturing them to help minimize grass coverage in the area which will in turn minimize the possibility of wildfires occurrence in the long run as in most cases trees do not dry up during the dry season. Planting, trees would also be a long time solution as it aid in preserving the environment counteracting the effects of global warming and desertification hence, with time may reduce the dry spell that is the main factor that influence wildfires as recommended by Yablecki, Bibeau, and Doug (26).
A short term solution applicable in situations where the area covered by grass is not extensive would be clearing the grasses when the rains end. This measure would aid in stopping the fire in case it starts based on the notion that fire cannot spread on bear ground. Therefore, the society is advices to clear grasses especially around their homes to act as a preventive mechanism in case of a wildfire breakout then they would be safe from its impact such as damage of homes and minimize loss of lives. In addition, in the event of wildfire outbreak the appropriate immediate measure would be prevent it from spreading which can be carried out traditionally by making the surrounding immediate areas from the fire origin of the fire bare or surrounding it with many fresh leaves as advised by Mendes (25). Constructing fire stations in these fire-prone regions to assist in putting of the fire would also help in minimizing the spread of the fire thus other side effects like destructions of homes.
Wildfires cause severe dangerous changes to human beings, the environment as well as the ecosystem which are either temporary or irreversible. The fact that wildfires, once have commenced are very difficult to control as they spread faster due to the wind’s influence yet are unpredictable as well as unexpected and could be started by anyone unknowing leaving the society with no one to blame after destruction and regrets. Wildfires have a negative impact on human life and the environment ranging from death, destruction of property, food, agricultural land to homes that in the long run contributes to poverty and low standard of living for the victims and poor economy as a whole. In addition, wildfire leads to an imbalance ecosystem that affects the natural peaceful coexistence of living and nonliving creatures as it destroys them to a vast extent contributing to the extinction of some animals. Therefore, there is need to try and prevent such fires. Education of the public on the essentiality of avoiding high risky activities like disposing unfinished ignited cigarettes as well as match sticks carelessly and ignition of fire by hunters that are likely to start such fires is vital in wildfire prevention. The society is advised that wildfire prevention campaign ought not to be a one-man campaign for it to be effective as it is crucial yet difficult.
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