Topic 3: Forest Fire Management

Background Information

Fire is a vital, ever present, ecological component of forests around the world. Forest fire effects plants, wildlife, and soil as well as ecosystem services such as water, air quality, and carbon sequestration. Forest fire causes dramatic losses each year in different continents, especially in the countries of Asia – Pacific regions, such as USA, Canada, Russia, China, Indonesia and Australia. Current climate changes will lead to an increase in both fire occurrence numbers and burned areas in the 21st century. The carbon emissions caused by forest fires will accelerate the buildup of greenhouse gases and could provide a feed-forward acceleration of global warming.

Fire, an ecological factor in silviculture, is the major stand-renewing disturbance in the forest. It has an ecological influence at all levels—species, stand and landscape, and drives forest vegetation dynamics. Silviculture should be based on natural disturbances, such as fire caused gaps and patches that will affect forest regeneration, composition and succession. Low intensity fire, however can benefit the forest through its positive effect on wildlife management and protection, its contributions to biodiversity conservation and invasive species control. Fire, in the form of prescribed burning, can be used as an efficient landscape tool that serves multiple functions including: fuel management, minimizing the spread of pest insects and disease, removing invasive species that threaten native species, and promoting tree growth. It is important to understand the role of forest fires in the ecosystem in order to control forest fires and using them as a management tool.

In summary, forest fires present a challenge for forest resources management because they have both harmful and beneficial effects. On one hand forest fires can threaten communities, destroy vast amounts of forest resources, and even threaten ecological security. On the other hand forest fires are a natural part of the forest ecosystem and important for maintaining the health and diversity of the forest. Learning how to use fire science to reduce fire risk and optimize the benefits is key for forest fire management.

Video Lectures – Forest Fire Management

3.3.1 Forest fire basic I

3.3.2 Forest fire basic II

3.3.3 Forest fire ecology

3.3.4 Forest fire management I

3.3.5 Forest fire management II

Additional Resources

  1. (n.d.). Retrieved January 22, 2015, from
    This article provides basic concepts and background information on wildfires.
  1. USDA Forest Service. (n.d.). Fire & aviation management. Retrieved from
    This website introduces the many aspects of wildfire management in the US, including prescribed burning, aviation, risk management etc.
  1. Natural Resources Canada. (2015). Fire. Retrieved from
    This website introduces forest fire status and management practices in Canada.
  1. Thomas, P. A., & McAlpine, R. (2010). Fire in the Forest. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN-10:0521822297; ISBN-13: 978-0521822299
    The main contents in this book include the nature of fire, historical review, fire ecology, the benefits of fire and its use as a landscape tool, and future wildland fire management practices. . It also introduces the main concepts and principles related to wildfires.

Self-test for Topic 3

Reflection Questions:

  1. How do forest fires start?
  2. What is the ecological role of forest fires?
  3. What is the relationship between forest fires and climate change?
  4. Describe current practices for managing forest fires.

After formulating your answers, you may post them online at the Knowledge Café for this course as a way to share your ideas and glean knowledge from other students’ responses.