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The forest swallowed by Fire God | Taiwan's forest wildfire

Hiking

2021-06-15

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Taiwan's mountain forests account for more than 70% of the total land area, and forest land can be seen no matter which county or city you go to. But this year, on May 16th, there was a forest wildfire in Mt. Jade Batongguan area, which was extinguished in 12 days; and 3 days later on 5/16, another forest fire occurred in Ma Lun Mountain in Taichung, which was extinguished in 7 days. What is the reason that the mountains and forests that accompany us have been suffering from fire disaster?

 

The causes of forest fires can be divided into two categories: Human carelessness and Natural fires.

Human carelessness

Causes Explanation

Cultivation

After eradicating weeds in the mountains in order to reclaim the farmland, the fastest method used by farmers is to burn the leaves and branches that are left unused. But accidentally or unattended, and the mountain breeze encourages them, it may spread in the mountains and cause an uncontrollable fire. (Photo: Xiakaruo Ancient Road:, Hsinchu)

Burn garbage

Confetti

Toilet paper

The rubbish left by the mountain climber will become flammable materials. In addition, it may appear near the camp, increasing the possibility of fire. So when climbing a mountain, please remember to pack your own garbage and take it home. In addition to preventing them from turning into igniting materials, it is also to prevent wild animals eating them and causing them to get sick or die.
Cigarette butts I believe everyone has seen someone who smokes a cigarette and flicks a cigarette butt. It is even more dangerous to do so in the mountains (watch the forest fire prevention animation of the Chiayi Forest District Office)! Don't forget "A single spark can start a prairie fire"!

Utility pole fall

Wire shortcircuit

Sometimes utility pole in mountain are crushed by fallen trees and made some sparks. If environmental factors such as dryness allow,it can easily burn.
Survival behavior Including picnics, lighting, heating, drying clothes, hunting, beacon, getting lost, etc. If there is a plan to stay in the mountains for more than a day, you have to face the problem of human "survival instinct." The night in the mountains is pitch black, coupled with the low temperature, and the loss of physical strength after climbing, it naturally makes people want to light a fire to cook and keep warm, or use fire to drive away the darkness (and drive away beasts). . In addition, some hunters will use fire to prevent the prey from decay.

Arson

Unlawful Timber trespass(Illegal logging) , indiscriminate cultivators, or ordinary people may be arson with revenge.

Tomb sweeping

Burning spirit money and incense without paying attention to the fire.

 

Natural fires

Lightning strike fire

Although the towering trees on the mountain are the first to suffer from lightning strikes, but the time when lightning strikes occur in Taiwan often overlaps with the rainy season, so even if the trees are hit and catch fire, there is a high possibility that will be extinguished by the subsequent rain. The trees struck by lightning will form a hollow inside but still growing (Photo: Ptlaman Giant Tree)

Electrostatic fire

The friction between leaves and branches generates static electricity, which might cause a fire. Although the probability is small, but still possible.
Foehn

It mostly occurs abroad in open and large forests. Although it is not the cause of forest fires in Taiwan, similarly, dry, high-temperature winds will encourage the fire, make the fire spread faster and wider, and increase the difficulty of extinguishing the fire.

 


In addition, there are the following two contributing factors

Coniferous forest

A large part of Taiwan's mountain forests are coniferous forests, such as pine, fir, and cypress, which grow in the middle and high altitudes (between 1800 meters and 3,500 meters). The characteristics of these trees are that the leaves are elongated in order to reduce water loss. Both  leaves and  wood are rich in oil, and the dry leaves are easily to ignite. Therefore, whether it is embers from man-made or natural lightning strikes, as long as a small spark,  may be ignited and turned into large fires and become the hidden cause of forest fires. (Photo: Hsinchu Shei-Pa National Park-Guanwu Villa)

Weather In Taiwan, from October to March of the following year, the air in the mountains is extremely dry, which also makes the forests dry and easier to catch fire. Taiwan is facing a severe drought this year(2021), making the mountains and forests drier and providing excellent fuel for forest fires. In foreign countries, due to extreme weather , forest fires are not only more likely to occur, but also more difficult to extinguish, becoming ignored disasters, such as the wildfire that lasted more than 4 months in the United States last year (2020), and the fire that lasted more than 7 months in Australia from 2019 to 2020. Thick smoke was released into the air and aggravated the problem of global warming , becomes a vicious circle.

 


After understanding the cause of the forest fire, turn back to look at the fire at the Mt. Jade Batongguan Camp fire. The main cause was that the fire was kicked down by a climber. The fire at Ma Lun Mountain in Taichung, after investigation, was also suspected to be a picnic and it was not cleaned up. In fact, according to statistics and surveys conducted by the Forestry Bureau of Taiwan, as many as 98% of forest fires are caused by man-made. In other words, although there are many factors conducive to the occurrence of fires in nature, forests will fire so frequently and cause such large disasters, almost are caused by many "carelessness" of humans, which leads to repeated forest catastrophes. .

 

The impact of forest fires

If a forest is burned down, it may take years, decades, or even hundreds of years to recover from the disaster. But as far as the overall environment is concerned, forest fires are not entirely harmful. Let the Orangecat editor carefully analyze it for you.

Disadvantage

When fighting the fire, it caused casualties of Forest Rangers and firefighters, and lost the talents who guarded the forests of Taiwan. If there is a fire in other mountain forests at the same time, it will not be able to respond quickly and fight the fire. As far as the forest itself is concerned, a large amount of dense smoke and dust cause air pollution after burning, which directly affects biological health; trees are burned to wither and collapse, animals are burned to death or forced to move, which reduces the ecological diversity that has been formed, and also allows Exotic Species have a chance to invade. Furthermore, the surface soil has no plant protection, and it is easy to cause landslides disasters during the rainy season. The death of a large number of trees will further affect the function of climate adjust. The tree species itself will be replaced, and the tree species will become so single, it is more prone to forest fires.


Advantage

In fact, forest fires are not entirely unprofitable. From an evolutionary perspective, fires can quickly burn dead or decaying animals and plants, and eliminate organisms that cannot adapt to environmental changes. It also has the function of "pesticide", because it can remove disease-ridden plants and harmful insects in the forest (the fallen leaves is the home of many insect eggs or larvae, and is the host of many tree diseases and insect pests), so fire can prevent the occurrence of diseases and insect pests. Also, after the fire, the trees that grew too densely, will change like a window opened, allowing sunlight to shine into the deep forest again, promoting the growth of a new generation of saplings, and the ashes after the fire are rich in minerals and nutrients, when they return to the soil, new plants can be conserved, which can speed up growth and flowering and fruiting. The buds or fruits will become food for wild animals, forming a circular ecology again.

 

The forest after the fire is like a major operation. Although it takes a long time to regain its vitality, it can also gradually become healthy and rejuvenated.

 

The types of forest fires are divided into the following categories

(according to the height of burning)

Surface-fire (or Grass-fire)

The most frequent occurrence refers to the burning of shrubs, weeds or litter in woodland or plain grassland. For plants, it is a state where the roots, young trees, and the lower cortex of the trunk are burned. (Photo below)

Surface-fire(Photo:Forestry Bureau, Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan)

 

Stem-fire、Crown-fires

When the fire encounters strong winds, it will spread upward to the trunk and even the crown (especially pines or other conifers, because the wood is rich in oil). Dead standing trees or low-hanging branches will also draw the fire upwards, spreading along the tree canopy downwind. (Photo below)

Stem-fire、Crown-fires(Photo:Forestry Bureau, Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan)

 

Underground fire

The litter layer of the middle and high altitude forest is not easy to decompose due to the low temperature. After many years of accumulation, a layer of flammable material is formed, which will slowly turn the surface fire into a downward "smoldering" form. (It's a bit like a barbecue until the end, no fire is seen, but a pile of ashes with a high temperature, as long as you add wood or new charcoal, it will be in a state of fire) Generally, it is easy to happen under the coniferous forest in the dry season. In the root soil surface organic matter burns with the peat layer. The characteristics are slow spreading speed, high temperature, long duration, and strong destructive power. The roots of the trees that are passed by the underground fire will burn out, unable to transmit nutrients, and eventually cause the trees to die and collapse.(Photo below)

Underground fire(Photo:Forestry Bureau, Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan)

 

Spot fire

The sparks in the original fire scene flew everywhere and fell elsewhere to cause another fire, often combining with the original fire scene to expand the burning range.

 

The forest fires is very different from general fires, and the people who put out the fire are not the usual firefighters! Face of uncontrollable wildfires in the mountains, how to put out fires and prevent them before they happen, Orangecat editor will tell you in the next article!

 

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