Understanding the Global Wildfire Crisis: Causes, Consequences, and Control

Understanding the Global Wildfire Crisis: Causes, Consequences, and Control

According to the Imperial News, in an era marked by climate shifts and environmental challenges, wildfires have surged to the forefront of global attention. Countries across continents, from the United Kingdom and Greece to the United States, find themselves grappling with fires that are increasingly frequent, expansive, and intense. Experts unanimously agree: the long-term ramifications of climate change are no longer abstract, but a blazing reality. [6]

The Origin: A Triad of Elements

At the core of any wildfire are three indispensable elements: fuel, oxygen, and heat. Remove one, and the fire ceases to exist. During peak drought conditions and soaring temperatures, it takes nothing more than a stray spark to incite a devastating blaze. While natural triggers like sunlight and lightning play their part, human negligence—whether it’s arson, improper debris burning, or a carelessly discarded cigarette—remains a leading cause. [1]

The Spreading Inferno: Speed and Severity

The rapid proliferation of wildfires can be attributed to various factors, including wind currents, topographical gradients, and the nature and amount of fuel available. As Rob Gazzard, a technical advisor to the Forestry Commission, elucidates, “A 10% upward slope can double the fire’s speed, and a 20% gradient can quadruple it.” This amplification is due to the fire preheating the combustible materials in its path. When the available fuel is excessively arid, controlling the fire becomes exponentially challenging. [6]

The Climate Connection: Weather’s Role in Wildfires

Weather patterns play a non-trivial role in wildfire activity. Conditions like drought, elevated temperatures, and wind can collectively turn a landscape into a tinderbox, primed for ignition [2] [3].Often, the most intense wildfire activity occurs during the afternoon, coinciding with peak temperatures [3].

Mitigation Strategies: A Predictive Approach

For effective wildfire management, predictive tools that analyse factors like wind speed, slope, and fire direction are indispensable. These inform strategic decisions, such as when and where to create fuel breaks—large trenches designed to halt the fire’s advance—using bulldozers, tree harvesters, and manual tools. [4]

The UK Context: Rising Risks and Preventative Measures

Although the UK experiences less severe wildfires compared to countries with more extreme climates, the impact is far from negligible. Predictions suggest a 30-50% rise in UK wildfires by 2080, prompting proactive measures like the planting of less flammable tree species and regular harvesting.[5] [6]


  1. (n.d.). The Fire Triangle. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Oct. 2023].
  2. Imperial News. (2023). Scientists uncover the role of climate change in devastating East Canada fires | Imperial News | Imperial College London. [online] Available at:
  3. Tomašević, I.Č., Cheung, K.K.W., Vučetić, V. and Fox-Hughes, P. (2022). Comparison of Wildfire Meteorology and Climate at the Adriatic Coast and Southeast Australia. Atmosphere, 13(5), p.755. doi:
  4. (n.d.). 8B6 The Wildfire Prediction System (WPS). [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Oct. 2023].
  5. Belcher, C., Brown B, I., Clay, G., Doerr D, S., Elliott, A., Gazzard, R., Kettridge, N., Morison, J., Perry, M., Santin, C. and Smith, T. (2021). UK Wildfires and their Climate Challenges. [online] Available at:
  6. Wildfires: Why they start and how they can be stopped. (n.d.). BBC News. [online] Available at: