Bushfires are frequent events during the hotter months of the year in Australia and in many other countries around the world.
Each year, bushfires, also called wildfires, damage property and kill people.
Many animals die in bushfires and their habitat is destroyed.
Damage caused by bushfires
Some forests are destroyed and trees are damaged.
Wildlife living in the forests is killed or injured by fire and smoke and the habitat of birds and animals is destroyed.
Houses are destroyed and people are killed or injured.
Power-lines, bridges, and other public property are destroyed.
Smoke pollutes the air.
What are the main causes of bushfires?
Fires in cars and trucks after road accidents
Careless people who, for example, drop their cigarette butts or let sparks and fire escape from their campfires
Lightning strikes set fire to grass and trees
Fires lit for burning off grass that get out of control
How can the effects of bushfires be reduced?
Preparing for bushfires
The safe burning of parts of the forests by workers who keep the fire under control is known as fuel reduction. This means that when a bushfire starts there will be less fuel (wood, trees, grass and so on) to burn.
This burning has some good effects too. For example, some plants need smoke to help them reproduce. Controlled burning allows forest animals to move to unburnt places.
Firefighters must be well trained and have good plans for fighting bushfires. They must have good fire fighting equipment such as trucks fitted with water tanks, hoses and good communication systems. There must be good roads and tracks through the forests so that firefighters can get to any fire quickly and safely.
What should people do if a bushfire comes?
Block up all doorways and windows so there are no draughts.
Use a hose to spray down the sides of their houses.
Block the downpipes leading from roof spouting with rags or tennis balls and fill the spouting gutters with water.
Connect a sprinkler to a garden hose and put it on the roof of the house.
Turn off the power and the gas supply.
Fill up the bath and sinks with water.
Robots that one day could be used for fighting bushfires are being developed in Sydney, Australia
How animals and plants survive bushfires
- Some animals run, jump, fly, or crawl away from fire.
- Some animals burrow deep under the ground.
- Some trees have a thick bark that protects them from fire.
In a bushfire, animals such as kangaroos, wallabies, emus and deer run and jump to escape the flames. Other animals such as mice, snakes, lizards, and wombats escape fire by burrowing, or escaping into burrows. Ants too, sheltering deep in the earth, often survive a fire. Mature birds can fly to a safer area until the flames have passed. But nesting birds cannot escape. However, many animals will not survive a bushfire!
In the bushfires in Victoria, Australia in 2009, millions of animals were destroyed.
Although thousands of trees, shrubs and grasses are destroyed by bushfire, many plants will regrow.
Some plants are protected from the heat of the flames by thick bark. Some have buds under the bark that grow after a fire, fed by food stored in the bark and water collected by roots deep in the soil. The seeds of some cedar plants are fire resistant. They fall into the ash of a fire and when rain falls, they begin to grow. Some plants protect their buds from fire with layers of succulent foliage or a cluster of needles.