Wild Fires


A wildfire is an uncontrolled fire that burns in the wildland vegetation, often in rural areas. Wildfires can burn in forests, grasslands, savannas, and other ecosystems, and have been doing so for hundreds of millions of years. They are not limited to a particular continent or environment.

Wildfires can burn in vegetation located both in and above the soil. Ground fires typically ignite in soil thick with organic matter that can feed the flames, like plant roots. Ground fires can smolder for a long time—even an entire season—until conditions are right for them to grow to a surface or crown fire. Surface fires, on the other hand, burn in dead or dry vegetation that is lying or growing just above the ground. Parched grass or fallen leaves often fuel surface fires. Crown fires burn in the leaves and canopies of trees and shrubs (Ref.1).

Wildfires are increasing around the globe in frequency, severity and duration, heightening the need to understand the health effects of wildfire exposure. The risk of wildfires grows in extremely dry conditions, such as drought, heat waves and during high winds.

Wildfire smoke is a mixture of hazardous air pollutants, such PM2.5, NO2, ozone, aromatic hydrocarbons, or lead. In addition to contaminating the air with toxic pollutants, wildfires also simultaneously impact the climate by releasing large quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

With climate change leading to warmer temperatures and drier conditions and the increasing urbanization of rural areas, the fire season is starting earlier and ending later. Wildfire events are getting more extreme in terms of acres burned, duration and intensity, and they can disrupt transportation, communications, water supply, and power and gas services (Ref. 2).


  1. “Wildfires”, Morgan Stanley, National Geographic,                           
  2. “Wildfires”, World Health Organization,

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