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Forest Fires and Famous Fires

For use with Talking Point worksheets

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Forest Fires and Famous Fires

Postby TalkingPoint » Thu Apr 23, 2009 7:42 am

Why do forest fires occur?
There are many different reasons why forest fires occur and many of them are completely natural. Heatwaves, drought and high winds are often the main culprits. Sometimes lightning strikes can start fires, as can volcanic activity, of course. However, there are obviously times when forest fires start due to reckless human practices, such as the failure to put a cigarette or camp fire out properly, or careless agricultural practices, such as land-clearance through burning. Unfortunately, some fires are started deliberately by pyromaniacs or arsonists.

Why do some people deliberately start forest fires?
There are various reasons why someone might start a fire in a building – to file an insurance claim, for example, or to cover up a previous crime. Revenge is another motive, so is politics; the list is endless. However, none of these really explains why someone would want to set fire to something as beautiful as a forest, to deliberately damage the environment or to risk putting people’s lives in danger.

Are forest fires all bad?
Actually, no. Forest fires are important for the ecosystem: they help to clear out dead wood from the floor of the forest. If they are prevented then the undergrowth may become too thick and crowded – a disadvantage for new plants – and burn even more fiercely should a fire eventually occur anyway. In addition to this, some trees have specifically evolved with the ablility to benefit from forest fires – their seeds need fire to stimulate them to germinate, for example. Nevertheless, uncontrolled fires which break out and spread dangerously cause deforestation and emit large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Have there been any famous fires in history?
Perhaps the two most famous fires in history were in cities, not forests. The Great Fire of Rome started on 18th July 64BC and lasted for nearly ten days, devastating the city. The emperor Nero is said to have played his fiddle – a type of violin – while the city burned. One of the other most famous fires in history may well be the Great Fire of London in 1666. It started during the night of Sunday 2nd September and went on until the following Wednesday. Although various factions were thought to have started it, there was no arsonist: the fire started in a bakery in Pudding Lane, quite by accident. It destroyed thousands of houses and nearly one hundred churches, eventually burning itself out when the strong winds that had fanned it died down.

Quick Quiz: Read the clues below and write the solutions on a piece of paper. Then take the first letter of each answer and rearrange them to find the hidden word connected with this Talking Point.

1. Sometimes __________ strikes can start fires

2. Unfortunately, some fires are started deliberately by pyromaniacs or __________.

3. There are various reasons why someone might start a fire in a building – to __________ an insurance claim, for example.

4. Forest fires are important for the __________.

5. One of the other __________ famous fires in history may well be the Great Fire of London.
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