All About Wildfires

As residential areas expand into relatively untouched wildlands, people living in these communities are increasingly threatened by forest fires. Protecting structures in the wildland from fire poses special problems, and can stretch firefighting resources to the limit.
If heavy rains follow a fire, other natural disasters can occur, including landslides, mudflows, and floods. Once ground cover has been burned away, little is left to hold soil in place on steep slopes and hillsides.
A major wildland fire can leave a large amount of scorched and barren land. These areas may not return to prefire conditions for decades. If the wildland fire destroyed the ground cover, then erosion becomes one of several potential problems.

Danger zones include all wooded, brush, and grassy areas--especially those in Kansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, the Carolinas, Tennessee, California, Massachusetts, and the national forests of the western United States.

There are three different classes of wildland fires. A surface fire is the most common type and burns along the floor of a forest, moving slowly and killing or damaging trees. A ground fire is usually started by lightning and burns on or below the forest floor. Crown fires spread rapidly by wind and move quickly by jumping along the tops of trees. Wildland fires are usually signaled by dense smoke that fills the area for miles around.

More than four out of every five forest fires are started by people. Negligent human behavior such as smoking in forested areas or improperly extinguishing campfires are the cause of many fires. The other cause of forest fires is lightning.

A prescribed fire is a fire that is purposely ignited by land management agencies under controlled conditions for specific management objectives.
The 1991 wildland fires in Oakland, California, caused 26 deaths and 148 injuries. The fires destroyed over 3,000 structures, left over 5,000 people homeless and resulted in $1.5 billion in damages.
In 1990, hot, dry weather conditions in California contributed to brush fires in Santa Barbara County that destroyed more than 600 buildings, caused over $200 million of damage and killed one person.
The greater Yellowstone National Park fire of 1988 destroyed or damaged private structures, including 17 mobile homes, 4 dwellings, a general store, 12 garages and outbuildings, 19 cabins, and several storage structures, and burned 1,210,730 acres of wildland.
Wildfire Wildland/Urban Interface
The recent wildfires in the western States, the 1994 Tyee fire in Washington, the 1993 Southern California fire siege, and the 1991 Oakland Hills fires are examples of the growing fire threat which results from the Wildland/Urban Interface. The Wildland/Urban interface is defined as the area where structures and other human development meet or intermingle with undeveloped wildland or vegetative fuels.
Wildland/Urban interface fire losses are not exclusively experienced in the west. Nearly every State has experienced wildland/urban interface fire losses including the Pine Barrens in New Jersey, the Palmetto in Florida, and Jack Pine in the Lake States. Since 1985, approximately 9,000 homes have been lost to urban/wildland interface fires across the United States.