Description of the fire risk
A forest fire is a fire that tends to spread in wooded, bushy or arboreal areas, including any anthropogenic structures and infrastructures in the area in question, or else cultivated or un-cultivated land and pastures adjacent to the areas (art. 2 law n. 353 of 21st November 2000).
A forest fire is a fire spreading and causing damage to vegetation and human settlements. In the latter case, when the fire is near to houses, buildings of places frequented by persons, you talk about interface fires. More appropriately, urban-rural interface is used to define those zones, areas or belts, where there are very close interconnections between anthropogenic structures and natural areas: meaning the geographical places where the urban systems meet and interact.
Fires occur in all the Italian regions, be it with various degrees of gravity and at different times of the year. The environmental and climatic conditions of the Italian peninsula help towards developing sources of fire principally in two seasons of the year. In the northern regions of alpine arc – and also in the highest zones of the Apennines – forest fires mainly break out in the winter- spring season, being the driest when vegetation has been dried up by freezing. Whilst the frequent thunder storms in the summer reduce the risk of fire.
On the contrary, in the central-southern peninsular regions with a Mediterranean climate, fires mainly break out in the hot, dry summer season. Some Italian regions experience this phenomenon both in the winter and summer season.
Fires can either be caused by nature or human beings.
Natural fires are very rare and are caused by natural and therefore inevitable events:
• Lightening. These can cause fires during thunderstorms without contemporary rainfall. Fires caused by lightening mainly break out in mountainous areas, where trees are good conductors of electrical discharges. These phenomena are very rare in a Mediterranean type climate like ours.
• Volcanic eruptions. Incandescent lava comes into contact with flammable vegetation.
• Spontaneous combustion. This never occurs in a Mediterranean climate.
Fires originated by human beings can be:
• Culpable (or involuntary). These are caused by the irresponsible and careless behaviour of man, often in breach of the law and conduct. Not with the purpose of voluntarily incurring damage as such. Causes may be: Farming and forestry activities. Fire is used to burn stubble, destroy vegetation left over from farming and forestry work processes and to renew pastures and uncultivated land. These operations are often done near to woodlands and wasteland, easy prey to fire, especially in the periods of greater risk.
• Abandoned cigarette stubs and matches. Cigarette ashes and stubs abandoned or thrown away along paths, forestry tracks and railway lines can fall onto dry grass or other dry vegetation and spark off a fire, also by effect of the air being moved by vehicles passing by or wind.
• Recreational and tourist activities (barbecues not put out properly), crackers launched, waste burnt in illegal rubbish dumps, badly maintained long-distance electricity lines.
• Wilful (voluntary). Fires are kindled voluntarily, with the intention of incurring damage to woodland and environment. The causes:
• To make a profit. The aim is to use the area destroyed by fire to satisfy interests linked with building speculation, poaching or to extend farmland.
• Protests and revenge. The action is born from resentment toward private parties, public authorities or provisions adopted, such as setting up protected areas. In many cases the intention is to damage a tourist area. In other cases a wilful behaviour may be attributed to basic problems such as pyromania and mythomania.
In the fire classification there are also fires of unknown origin, where it is impossible to identify a precise reason.