Odisha reports 542 forest fires in last 7 days, highest in India

Why in News?

  • Forest fires continued to remain unabated in Odisha after the state recorded 542 such cases in the last seven days making it the highest among all states in the country.

What is Wildfire?

  • Also called forest, bush or vegetation fire, can be described as any uncontrolled and non-prescribed combustion or burning of plants in a natural setting such as a forest, grassland, brush land or tundra, which consumes the natural fuels and spreads based on environmental conditions (e.g., wind, topography).
  • Wildfires can be incited by human actions, such as land clearing, extreme drought or in rare cases by lightning.
  • There are three conditions that need to be present in order for a wildfire to burn: fuel, oxygen, and a heat source.

Human-induced Climate Change:

  • Increases in greenhouse gases resulting from human activities have led to a net effect of warming of the climate system leading to direct impacts including increased air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level.
  • The increases in greenhouse gases can be attributed to fossil fuel use, land-use change, etc.

Types of a forest fire:

  • Surface fire: Spread along the surface litter (leaves, twigs, dry grasses) on the forest floor.
  • Ground fire: Fires in the subsurface organic fuels, such as duff layers under forest stands, burn underneath and are often ignited by surface fires.
  • Crown fire: A crown fire is one in which the crown of trees and shrubs burn, often sustained by a surface fire.

Factors causing Forestfire:

  • Climate change increases the frequency and severity of fire weather around the world.
  • Increased fire weather from climate change amplifies fire risk where fuels remain available.
  • Fire weather is a combination of conditions that set the stage for the rapid spread of wildfires.
  • High temperature
  • Low Relative humidity
  • Strong sustained winds (> 20 mph) carry oxygen and spread flames.
  • Poor land and forest management also contributes to the wildfires, however, it does not alone account for the recent increases in the extent and severity of the wildfires globally.
  • Factors Identified by the IPCC: The Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published in 2013, identified a few factors that could influence the way wildfires play out. These include:
  • Global increase in average temperatures.
  • Global increases in the frequency, intensity and extent of heatwaves (breaching of historically extreme temperature thresholds).
  • Regional increases in the frequency, duration and intensity of droughts.


  • Forest fires have become an issue of global concern. In many countries, wildfires are burning larger areas, and fire seasons are growing longer due to global warming.
  • Australia previously battled its largest bushfire on record, while parts of the Arctic, the Amazon and central Asia have also experienced unusually severe fires.
  • Wildfires in Western USA (California) are another example.
  • Globally, forest fires release billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, while hundreds of thousands of people are believed to die due to illnesses caused by exposure to smoke from forest fires and other landscape fires.
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