Wildfire/forest fire, whenever it’s raging, spreads fast and furious, covering vast areas extensively. With the exception of Antarctica, wildfires occur on every continent, causing extensive damage, to both property and human life. Even though some wildfires burn in remote forested areas, they are still liable of causing extensive destruction to homes and property in adjoining rural areas. The ensuing haze pollution of acrid smoke and poisonous smog can escalate into regional cross border issues with wider implications. That it’s becoming a growing natural hazard in most regions is already acknowledged. Wildfire spreads quickly, consuming almost everything in its path, destroying at times, thousands of acres of surrounding land. Once ignited, wildfires spread at a speed up to 14.29 miles per hour (23 kph). In the United States, wildfires destroy on average, 5 million acres every year,a guide to handling wildfire damages from SLFFirm.com.
In August 2010, wildfires which raged during summer in Russia caused an estimated damage of US$ 400 million. The fires which covered 22 Russian regions left 3,500 people homeless. Emergency evacuations at one stage reached 7,000 people per day. In the midst of the fast-spreading wildfires, rescuers managed to save 4,000 residential areas from fires. At its height, acrid smoke from forest and peat bog fires blanketed Moscow with a poisonous smog contributing to a higher death rate in the city. Carbon monoxide concentration at one stage was more than five times the normal level. The smog grounded planes in airports and nearly doubled the number of recorded deaths. When it was raging in mid-August 2010, there were 16 wildfires burning outside Moscow. The 2010 summer, the hottest in Russia in over 130 years with its heatwave reflected the global climate’s increased volatility. Wildfires which compounded the drought in Russia destroyed almost a third of its wheat crop, prompting the authorities to ban wheat exports.
The 1997 forest fires which burned out of control in forest, plantations, and scrublands in Sumatra and Kalimantan (Indonesia) destroyed almost 1 million hectares. The illegal practice of open burning to clear timber and plantation areas aggravated an unusually dry period in the region caused by a severe El Nino event. The resulting smog spread to cities in Indonesia, Malaysia Singapore, and Philippines affecting up to 70 million people.
Mixed with pollution in cities, smoke from the forest fires produced deadly smog, referred to in Asia as “the haze”. Over 40,000 people were hospitalized due to the haze which claimed the lives of 19 people in Indonesia. Experts warned that the 1997 haze could be instrumental to 20% of all deaths in the region. Air pollutant Index (API) in parts of Indonesia, and Malaysia reached levels of pollution deemed extremely dangerous to human health.