We all have come across the headline “Amazon is burning” or “Forest Fire in Amazons” and many such this year. The newspaper, social platforms, and television all covered the news day and night. If we look deeper, we see that there were many casualties, a lack of awareness, and various political issues that led to such destruction. In India, too, two recent significant outbreaks of forest fires were witnessed. One was in Uttarakhand, which occurred in 2016. About 8600 acres of forest land were burnt, and in total, 1600 incidents of fire were detected throughout the forest.

At last, the Indian Air Force Mi-17 controlled it using “Bambi Buckets.” Another one occurred very recently in Bandipur (Karnataka) from February 21, 2019, to February 25, 2019. About 10,920 acres of forest land were burnt, and the fire advanced to Mudumalai Forest Range in Tamil Nadu.

A country should have 50% of land area for forests, comprising its flora and fauna. We have failed to keep up the level. The reasons are Urbanization, Overpopulation, Enterprises, etc. All these are linked to each other. Above all these, what affects the most is FIRE!

Forest Fire (or Wildfire) refers to uncontrolled fire in wild vegetation and spreading of it, posing a hazard to fauna and flora, also disturbing the biodiversity and ecological harmony. It can be caused both by nature or by us. Natural forest fires usually occur because of lightning, high temperatures and lack of rain, and low humidity leading to dehydration. Due to lack of negligence by humans, ignited cigarettes, bidis, or woods (used in a campfire) leads to massive burning of forests.

We can classify the forest fire into two basic types in terms of how they are spreading:

  • Surface — This type of forest fire will spread through the ground, burning the herbs and shrubs. It is mainly covered by friction between the dried leaves. The fire will take time to reach the tall trees. It is hard to detect this kind of fire until smoke comes out.
  • Crown — This type affects the upper part of the forest. The canopy mainly burns, affecting the tall trees. Smoke is generated at a considerable rate, and hence people nearby come to know about the fire.

Knowing how harmful and dangerous it can be for the ecology, precise measures need to be selected. Prevention is what we prefer. But preparation for the worst is the best way out. For many year’s research is done to study the fire patterns in the forest and to develop indicators to stop it from further spreading. Generally, wind, slope, fuel, and suppression activities play a significant role in determining the fire pattern. Fire pattern indicators are physical objects that display changes (fire effects — observable or measurable changes in or on a material as a result of a fire) from exposure to heat, flame, combustion, and byproducts. It is a single component of the overall fire pattern, which will reveal the overall fire progression.

For developing an indicator, we need to be aware of the Fire Pattern Indicator Vectors. So what is it? It is a group of individual fire pattern indicators located near each other, which, as a group, reflect the fire spread vector within that area. There are three vector areas based on the dynamics of fire spread:

After understanding the fire pattern vectors, it becomes quite helpful in designing appropriate indicators.

Various indicators are used now and then in determining the forest fires in multiple areas. But, there are three common one which is used most. It follows:

1. Wireless Sensor Network (WSN):

It is a group of geographically dispersed and devoted sensors used to monitor and record the physical conditions of the environment and organize the collected data at a central location. It measures temperature, sound, pollution levels, and humidity. The network of sensor nodes, when installed in a forest, detects when a fire has started. Nodes are usually equipped with sensors to measure temperature, humidity, and gases produced by a fire in the trees or vegetation. The cross-layer design of WSN is crucial as it helps adapt to environmental changes and provides complete information.

2. Forest Fire Weather Index (FWI):

It is the estimation of the risk of wildfire computed by Meteo France and Meteorological Service of Canada. Introduced in France in 1992, it is based on a Canadian empirical model, which was developed in 1976 and used since then.

An index is a whole number which ranges as follows for the following countries:

  • France: 0–20
  • Canada: Above 30

The index is calculated by the five major components, which are as follows:

  • Numeric ratings of moisture content of litter and other fine fuels
  • The average moisture content of loosely compacted organic layers of moderate depth
  • The average moisture content of deep, compact and organic layers
  • Rate of spread if fuel is available for combustion
  • Frontal fire intensity

The first three components are based on the numerical rating of the fuel, and the last two elements are on the rate of spread of the fire.

The countries which apply this method and are very serious about it are :

  • Australia
  • France
  • Canada
  • New Caledonia
  • Croatia

More countries need to adopt this technique as it is a very efficient one. This will help us in preserving our Wild Reserves effectively.

3. Drones

It is used for a large number of purposes, be it in a Secret Operation or Surveillance. Similarly, it is used in forests to check any fire has broken down or not. It helps in the very early detection by getting a view of some ignited objects left by humans. This may prevent the outbreak of significant fire. The drones used for this work has Thermal Cameras, which allow us to identify the temperature of the device in a particular environment, which helps us to measure the intensity of a fire.

There are high-resolution optical cameras for a better view at all possible angles. This helps in the total picture of the forest and works as data for other relevant purposes too.

Some sensors are all installed for temperature, humidity and to check the level of combustible gases.

Hence, in the end, we can infer that indicators are developed to control forest fires’ hazardous effects. Our country and many other countries need to implement the use of these indicators for their ecological welfare.

Forests are the lungs of our planet. We need to save it today, tomorrow, and forever!

Written by: Priyanka Dutta

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