An uncontrolled fire burning in wildland areas. Common causes include lightning and drought but wildfires may also be started by human negligence or arson. They can be a threat to those in rural areas and also wildlife. Wildfires can also produce ember attacks, where floating embers set fire to buildings at a distance from the fire itself.
Wildfires are common in many places around the world, including much of the vegetated areas of Australia as well as the veld in the interior and the fynbos in the Western Cape of South Africa. The forested areas of the United States and Canada are also susceptible to wildfires. The climates are sufficiently moist to allow the growth of trees, but feature extended dry, hot periods. Fires are particularly prevalent in the summer and fall, and during droughts when fallen branches, leaves, and other material can dry out and become highly flammable. Some suggest that global warming has been increasing the intensity and frequency of droughts in many areas, creating more intense and frequent wildfires. Wildfires are also common in grasslands and scrublands. Wildfires tend to be most common and severe during years of drought and occur on days of strong winds. With extensive urbanization of wildlands, these fires often involve destruction of suburban homes located in the wildland urban interface, a zone of transition between developed areas and undeveloped wildland. On occasions, wildfires have caused large-scale damage to private or public property, destroying many homes and causing deaths, particularly when they have reached urban-fringe communities. Wildfires are extremely dangerous, but some are purposely caused.
Wildfires can also be beneficial
Fire is sometimes essential for forest regeneration, or provides tangible benefits for local communities. In other cases it destroys forests and has dire social and economic consequences.
Forest fires are a natural part of ecosystems in many, but not all, forest types: in boreal and dry tropical forests for example they are a frequent and expected feature, while in tropical moist forests they would naturally be absent or at least rare enough to play a negligible role in ecology.