China had more forest fires in 1992 than during the previous years. By the end of 1992 there were 8,727 recorded forest fires, 4,514 of which were warning fires and 26 big fires. No “large” (see below) fire was reported. The total number of fires increased by 48% compared to the 5,899 fires recorded in 1991.
The fire classification according to the Forest Fire Prevention Act of China is as follows:
Warning Fire: less than 1 ha Fire: 1 – 100 ha Big Fire: 100 – 1000 ha Large Fire: 1000 ha and more
In 1992 the total damaged forest area was 55,805 ha which is 2.5 times that of 1991 and an 35 % increase compared to the four year average of 1988-1991. The region with the largest burnt area was Heilongjiang Province where in 1987 a large fire had burned 1,3 million ha, damaging 870,000 ha of forested land, three towns, 10,081 homes, and resulting in 193 fatalities.
The Fire Occurrence Rate (fires per 0.1 million ha of forest) in 1992 was 6.8. This is a decrease of ca.12% as compared to the 1988-1991 average of 7.7 fires.
Fire Damage Rate (total burnt forest area : total forest area) in 1992 was 0.43, while the four year average of 1988-1991 was 0.32.
Forest Fire Control Rate (area of timber land burned per fire) in 1992 was 6.4 ha. This corresponds to an increase of 52% as compared to the 4.2 ha which was the four-year average for 1988-1991.
Analyzing the fire causes
Out of the 8,727 forest fires the causes for 7,219 of these fires have already been determined (i.e. 82.7 %). Of the known fires, based on reports from the Chinese provinces, 3,359 fires were caused by escaped management fires in the forestry and agriculture sector. 3,581 fires were caused by activities not related to land use, for example, smoking, burning paper for burial rituals, children playing with fire. There were also 49 fires set by arson and 166 by lightning. The fires occurred almost every month. But the fire peak appeared mainly in February, April and November: the figures being 1,899, 1,458, and 1,230 respectively.
The most accidental situation occurred in northeastern China, outside the fire season. There are two fire seasons in this region, the first from March to June, the second from September to November, yet in July of 1992 the region experienced an unseasonably high number of fires. In the Province of Heilongjiang 212 fires broke out in July accounting for 78.2 percent of the year’s total 1271 fires. 80 of these fires were caused by lightning that struck the region more than it had any time in the past half century. In analyzing this special phenomenon, we concluded the abnormal climate conditions to be the key factor. In the middle of June in the northeastern part of China, several weeks of rising temperatures turned every thing on the ground green. Then a large-scale heavy snow storm suddenly covered the regenerating forest region and all living grass on the ground was killed. Immediately after the snow had melted the grass turned yellow. A high pressure system subsequently moved in and brought sunshine and dry weather conditions. The forest fuels which two weeks before had been green and low hazard now became dangerous. A summer thunderstorm hit the area and lightning fires put the off-duty fire prevention officer and fire brigade back on alert, keeping them busy controlling fires during the period when they normally could enjoy a good rest.
From: Wang Dong, Forest Fire Prevention Engineer Address: Forest Fire Prevention Office Ministry of Forestry 100714, He Ping Li Beijing, China