Risk assessment and management of wildfires

T. K. Hincks, B. D. Malamud, R. S. Sparks, M. J. Wooster, T. J. Lynham

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background Introduction: Wildfires are dramatic and can be highly destructive, yet palaeoenvironmental records show that fire has been a part of the earth’s natural environment for hundreds of millions of years (Bowman et al., 2009). Some ecological systems in drought-prone climates have adapted to frequent wildfires. However, as human systems have gradually taken over much of the planet, wildfires are increasingly seen as a threat. Wildfire frequency is likely increasing as a consequence of human activities, either inadvertently, intentionally or maliciously. Complex dynamics and atmospheric feedbacks make fire behaviour very hard to predict. Whether started intentionally or naturally, wildfires can quickly get out of control and spread at alarming speeds. Major wildfires have been documented at speeds of spreading up to 10–20kmhr−1(Noble, 1991; Rasmussen and Fogarty, 1997), and can cover areas of tens, hundreds or in some cases tens of thousands of square kilometres (see Azuma et al., 2004; Gill and Allan, 2008; VBRC, 2009: appendix A). Embers can blow hundreds of metres or even kilometres ahead of the fire front and can catch vulnerable structures ablaze in seconds (Wang, 2006). Air temperatures in a major wildfire can reach many hundreds of degrees Celsius, making survival or escape difficult or even impossible. Impacts include destruction of crops and buildings, damage to ecosystems, huge economic losses and societal disruption and the release of smoke that represents a flux of carbon and greenhouse gas to the atmosphere and which can be detrimental to visibility and human health.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRisk and Uncertainty Assessment for Natural Hazards
PublisherCambridge University Press
Pages398-444
Number of pages47
ISBN (Print)9781139047562, 9781107006195
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011

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