Chapter 4.2 Forest fires

If drying occurs, fires in peatlands may potentially become larger. In very dry peat conditions, the water absorption capacity is compromised and the peat no longer functions as soil but as dry wood instead.

The dangers of peatland fires.

More than 99% of the causes of forest and peatland fires are the result of human activities, whether due to intentional burning or negligent use of fire.

This is reinforced by certain conditions that make peatlands prone to fire, such as the El Niño phenomenon, the degraded physical condition of peat, and the low socio-economic conditions of the community.

Draining peatlands adds to the landscapes’ potential for forest fires, as the water absorption capacity is compromised and the peatland acts as dry wood instead of soil. Reduced water content during the dry season and anthropogenic peat draining activities increase the potential for peatland fires. Under such conditions, fire will burn organic materials on the surface such as trees, shrubs, and other plants. Furthermore, the fire can spread erratically below the surface, either vertically or horizontally, and can burn the organic material through the pores of the peat. Burning peat produces more heat than burning wood or charcoal.

The fire that spreads below the surface of the ground causes a burning that does not spark/flare, with only white smoke visible above the surface. That often makes extinguishing such fires difficult.