Bush fires are something that we in the UK seldom have to worry about. However in the hot dry parts of the world they are a seasonal hazard. In the last week the Australian state of Tasmania has been ravaged by the flames causing people to evacuate their homes and causing havoc for animal habitats. Click here to learn more about the fires in Tasmania. They are also known as wildfires in the USA and are a common problem faced by residents of California as explained in this news report from 2009 when the flames raced through Santa Monica and beyond.
Bush fires are natural phenomena and occur after long periods of dry hot weather when vegetation is bereft of moisture. The initial flames maybe the result of intense sunlight, a lightning strike or via human causes such as uncontrolled campfires or arson. The fire plays a very important role in removing leaf litter and native vegetation will be well adapted to survive the heat. For example the eucalyptus tree common to Australia rely upon bush fires to burn away outer bark that is shed annually. Problems occur when strong winds blow the flames towards human settlements, it is hard to protect property although homes in particularly vulnerable areas may have external sprinkler systems.
The diagram above shows which areas in Australia are most vulnerable to bush fires. You can see that the recently affected area in Tasmania is the most vulnerable in the country. Northern areas are less susceptible as the climate is tropical so experiences higher levels of rainfall throughout the year.