Forest Fires

Fighting forest fires with a plan and community cooperation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: trend in forest fires in states

Mains level: Region more prone to forest Fire and factores behind the forest fire

Why in the news? 

The forest staff across the Kerala State are on alert with the onslaught of summer, with temperatures reaching as high as 40-41 degrees Centigrade, unusual for this time.

Forest Fires in Kerala 

  • Kerala records relatively fewer forest fires compared to several other states in India, including Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, and Maharashtra.
  • Kerala’s forest cover, occupying 29.65% of the land, is dominated by deciduous and semi-deciduous woods that are drying up, especially on the forest periphery because of it Forest staff in Kerala are on alert
  •  Kerala reported 163 wildfire incidents since January, resulting in the burning of 230 hectares of forest, which is less compared to previous years.
  • Global Forest Watch data indicates 97 VIIRS(Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suit) fire alerts in Kerala between March 15 and 22, with only 5.2% of them classified as high-confidence alerts.Fires were responsible for 0.33% forest cover loss in Kerala between 2001 and 2022 according to Global Forest Watch.

What is the frequency of forest fires in India?

  •  Escalation Of forest Fire : Forest fire season in India typically spans from November to June, during which hundreds of thousands of small and large fires occur annually. The frequency of fires tends to escalate from February onwards as summer approaches.
  • forest Fires as per (ISFR) : In its 2021 report, the biennial India State of Forest Report (ISFR) released by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) indicates that 35.47% of the forest cover is classified as fire-prone areas.

Region more prone to forest Fire

  • Fires of severe magnitude occur frequently in dry deciduous forests, whereas evergreen, semi-evergreen, and montane temperate forests are relatively less susceptible to fires.
  • During the November to June period, the forests in Northeast India, Odisha, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Uttarakhand face the highest risk of fires.For example in 2021, a string of forest fires occurred in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, the Nagaland-Manipur border, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat, including within wildlife sanctuaries.
  • In 2024 forest Fires: According to data from the Forest Survey of India (FSI), Mizoram reported the highest number of forest fires (3,738), followed by Manipur (1,702), Assam (1,652), Meghalaya (1,252), and Maharashtra (1,215).

Reason behind the forest fires in India 

The majority of forest fires in India are ignited by human activities, including:

  • Agricultural Burning: Farmers often use fire to clear land for cultivation or to manage crop residues, leading to accidental fires spreading into nearby forests.For example Jhum (slash and burn cultivation)
  • Intentional Arson: Deliberate setting of fires for various reasons, such as land grabbing, hunting, or retaliatory actions.
  • Carelessness: Unattended campfires, discarded cigarettes, or burning of waste materials can spark fires.
  • Climate Conditions: Dry and hot weather conditions during the summer months create favorable conditions for the rapid spread of fires. .For example forest fires has worsen due to climate change as per UNEP

Plan for Fighting forest Fires 

  • Early Detection: Implement systems for early detection of forest fires, such as fire watchtowers, aerial surveillance, and remote sensing technologies like drones and satellites.
  • Rapid Response: Develop well-trained and equipped firefighting teams capable of swift response to contain fires in their early stages before they escalate.
  • Controlled Burns: Conduct controlled burns during cooler and wetter months to remove excess vegetation and reduce the risk of large-scale wildfires during dry seasons.
  • Firebreaks: Create and maintain firebreaks by clearing vegetation along strategic points to halt the spread of fires.
  • Community Involvement: Educate local communities about fire prevention and train them in firefighting techniques. Encourage community participation in fire management efforts.
  • Equipment and Infrastructure: Ensure availability and proper maintenance of firefighting equipment such as hoses, pumps, bulldozers, and firefighting aircraft.


Forest fires in India, exacerbated by climate conditions, pose significant threats. Kerala’s proactive measures and community involvement highlight effective strategies for prevention and control, crucial in mitigating the increasing frequency of fires nationwide.

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