Severe Wildfires

The term wildfire refers to unplanned and uncontrolled fires in the natural environment. Heath, moorland and forests are particular at risk as grass, gorse and heather found in these habitats are prone to wildfires.

Disruption from Severe Wildfires

Wildfires could disrupt many aspects of day-to-day life; for instance roads and schools could be closed and people may need to be evacuated from affected urban areas.

If emergency services have to attend wildfires, it’s taking them away from other emergencies and presents a challenge to maintain ‘business as usual’.

While the impact of wildfires is relatively low compared with other emergencies, the location of severe wildfires could cause damage or disrupt transport and energy infrastructure (for example, roads, airports, pipelines and power lines), commercial property and homes and crops. They also result in air pollution from smoke and fumes and could contaminate water and habitats. Water could be contaminated as ash and other particulates dissolve into groundwater and reservoir supplies.

Casualties from wildfire tend to be low, but there could be significant distress and possible public health consequences, such as an increase in respiratory ailments due to smoke or fumes.

In the long run, tourism could be affected by the scars left on the landscape.

Causes of Wildfires

Wildfires are predominantly started as a result of human activity. This could be accidental, through carelessness, such as a result of barbeques or camp fires, or they could be deliberate. Sparks from power lines and transport, or ordnance in military training areas have also been known to start wildfires. Natural phenomena, such as lightning also accounts for a proportion of wildfires.

Some weather conditions, for example, hot, dry or windy provide good conditions for wildfires to start or spread. These weather conditions tend to be relatively short-lived and not spread evenly across the year. In years where there has been a significant drought, the number of wildfires usually rises.

Economic Disruption

Disruptions to services and businesses result in extensive economic costs. Response, clean up and recovery (including restorative costs) add to the economic cost of a severe wildfire.