Fire Facts

Fire is an event controlled by fuels, weather, and topography. Fire has existed throughout all time periods, and, prior to the appearance of humans in North America, the ingredients for fire was largely controlled by climate.

Since human presence, ignition sources and fuels have been modified; people have changed their environment. As a result, ecosystems have adapted to wildland fires, defined as all fires that burn in natural environments. The natural role of wildland fire, an important ecological force, cannot be ignored because fire greatly influences ecosystems. Fire's influential role as an ecological force, similar to that of other natural phenomena such as floods, earthquakes and hurricanes, will be discussed in the following sections.

Cultural Interpretations of Fire—Fire has been a benevolent, mystical and religious symbol of great significance for cultures throughout the world.

Different Ecosystems—Fire affects different landscapes in varying ways, and many depend on fire to maintain the ecosystem's stability and diversity.

Fire and Ecosystems—Wildland fire is one of nature's oldest phenomena, probably developing simultaneously with land-based vegetation and the evolution of the atmosphere.

Fire Behavior—Fire is influenced by many factors, like geography, climate, weather, and topography.

Fire Classifications—Fires customarily are classified as either natural or human-caused.

Fire Ecology—Fire ecology is a branch of ecology that concentrates on the origins of wildland fire and its relationship to the living and non-living environment. This school of thought recognizes that fire is a natural process operating as a component of an ecosystem.

Fire Effects Monitoring—Research on the effects of fire has been occurring for years in the national parks. It is an important basis of decision-making for park and fire managers.

Fire Engines—Most parks are located away from urban areas and maintain their own wildland fire protection and suppression equipment, including wildland fire engines.

Fire Evaluation—Wildland fire managers must constantly assess the threat of human-caused fire to wildlands and the threat of wildland fires to humans.

Fire Management Personnel—It takes many different types of people with a variety of skills to manage a fire.

Fire Spread—There are three general patterns of fire spread recognized.

Fire Suppression—Many park visitors and other interested parties often ask, "How do you put out a wildland fire?" The answer is both simple and complex.

Fire Triangle—Fire is a chemical reaction, called combustion; this involves the rapid oxidation of combustible materials, or any substance which will ignite and burn, accompanied by a release of energy in the form of heat and light. An external source of heat generally is needed to start a fire.

Fire Monitors—After a park receives report of a fire, fire monitors are sent to investigate.

Fire Watches & Warnings—Fire Weather Watches and Red Flag Warnings are used to convey the possibility of severe fire weather to wildland fire agencies.

Fireline Construction—Fireline is a break in fuel, made by cutting, scraping or digging into the earth. It can be done by mechanized equipment such as bulldozers, but in most parks, it is done using handtools.

Hazardous Fuel Reduction—Fuel reduction projects and vegetation treatments have been proven as a means of mitigating wildfire hazards, to lessen catastrophic fire and its threat to public and firefighter safety, and damage to property.

Historic Fires—Wildland fire is a natural process; it is not new. Wildfires, floods, earthquakes and similar natural occurrences are of much concern to society-primarily because we cannot control or completely protect ourselves against them.

Human Use—Fire has been used throughout history to shape the environment, improve hunting, and as an act of war. Today, fire is used regularly to benefit natural habitats and resources.

Incident Command System (ICS)—Usually shortened to ICS, the Incident Command System is used to manage people and resources during many different types of incidents including fire, rescues, hurricanes, and more.

Incident Command System Levels—The Incident Command System (ICS) is flexible, scaling up or down as complexity changes and the needs of the incidents change.

Preparedness Levels—There are five levels of preparedness typically used at a regional and national level. This describes the points at which different national preparedness levels are declared with regards to fire activity and resources committed.

Prescribed Fire—Fire managers may "prescribe" a treatment for resource benefits or research.

Prevention History—Smokey Bear is perhaps the most successful fire prevention education icon in the United States.

The Effects of Fire—Learning the effects of fire on a landscape is a valuable tool for park and fire managers as well as scientists.

Understanding Fire Danger—Fire Danger is a description of the combination of both constant and variable factors that affect the initiation, spread, and difficulty to control a wildfire on an area.

Wildfire Causes—Wildfires can be caused by nature, like lava or lightning, but most are cause by humans.

Wildland Fire Evaluation—Wildland fire managers must constantly assess the threat of human caused fire to wildlands and the threat of wildland fires to humans.