Summer 2021 starts to set in: Why we are looking at possibility of increased cases of fires

02 April 2021

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INDIA – Summer fires: As summer is setting in, the possibility of fires due to heat are starting to increase. Reports of fires drastically rise during summer months. Due to more fans and ACs being used by people, overburdening of electricity in circuits can cause short circuits, which can lead to fires. It is a major cause of fires in urban areas, and the problem is not limited to India. Vehicle fires are also common, along with fires in landfills. However, another issue that is rampant with regard to fires during summer is the issue of forest fires. As per the data of the Forest Survey of India, 54.4% of the forest area in India is prone to occasional fires in the country, while another nearly 7.5% are prone to moderately frequent fires. High incidence of forest fires is possible in 2.4% of the forest area in the country.

While people often use more electronic appliances to beat the heat during summer months, burdening the electric circuits, the issue is augmented by the fact that in smaller houses, things of flammable nature are often crammed together, easily catching fire and helping spread it rapidly. Another issue is the houses which have tin roofs and walls – the temperature inside such structures soars to very high levels, making items like paper or chemicals prone to fire.

Vehicles are also prone to catching fires during intense heat due to vapours of fuel, which are flammable. Apart from that, short circuits are also a common reason for fires in vehicles.

Landfills and garbage fires can also take place due to either the methane gas that is produced by the garbage, or if the garbage is dry. Garbage fires are an issue because they can spread to households or vehicles. In recent years, the Ghazipur landfill in Delhi has caught on fire multiple times due to increased heat within the mountain of garbage, which reacts with the methane gas that is produced and leads to disastrous consequences. The landfill already remains heated from inside during cold months, but the rising heat makes it more vulnerable, as seen late last month, when the site again saw a fire break out.

Forest fires during summers

Summers also see increased instances of forest fires all over the world, particularly if the winter season preceding it was dry. This is because the smoke point or burning point of dry leaves can be matched easily if the temperature is high enough. What makes forest fires so difficult is the fact that controlling forest fires is extremely difficult due to ready availability of flammable material in the form of trees.

The Australian bush fires, which took place June 2019 and May 2020, which consists largely of the summer season in Australia, went rampant and caused mass destruction to forests and species inhabited within them, including koalas and kangaroos. Apart from Australia, the Amazon rainforest, which is called the lungs of the Earth due to its massive size has also witnessed numerous forest fires continuing for months at a time, in the past two years.

While the climate change and increased temperatures during summer were not the only reasons for these two fires, they partly played a role in spreading the fire and making it uncontrollable.

Forest fires are also very common in India, with 2021 already having witnessed three forest fires, including one at the Simlipal National Park in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district, and another at the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. While these fires cause excessive smoke and pollution in the air and lead to reduction in the forest cover, they also cause mass damage to the wildlife inhabiting these forests.

The only solution visible at the moment to this issue is to take measures that would prevent further climate change and possibly reverse the problems that have been globally caused by human activities.

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