What is a Gigafire?

Whenever we speak of wildfires, we all know the massive amounts of destruction that they can cause to the vegetation and the neighbouring wildlife. The damage caused can be such that its effects are borne for days and months to come. But have you ever heard of something called a gigafire?

You can consider gigafires to be an upgraded version of wildfires wherein the intensity of the damage is quadrupled and it can leave its devastating footprints for quite some time. I’m sure after reading all of this you must be curious to know more about a gigafire.

Without further ado, let’s dive deep to know more about this hazardous phenomenon!

What is a Gigafire?

A gigafire is a forest fire that has encroached or burned over 1 million acres of forest land. Like the others, this form of wildfire also takes its time to begin but goes on to unleash its merciless wrath with the passage of time.

In fact, until 2020 there was no such concept of a gigafire. The only known blaze of such high intensity was a megafire, which had the potential to burn over 1,000 hectares of land. It was only until the Californian bushfires of August 2020 when this new classification was added to the list of wildfires.

How did Gigafires Originate?

According to scientists, there isn’t much data available about their origin, but it may have all begun with a series of complex lightning striking with a massive force. The electrical and heat energy produced was so much that it eventually led to the formation of sparks, thereby causing the wildfire.

This is the basic process of the formation of every wildfire. But there are a few theories which state that environmental factors have a huge role to play in the formation of this gigantic wildfire. Hotter and drier conditions can further add fuel to this fire and cause large scale damage to the forestry of the affected region.

What Causes Gigafires?

Gigafires are generally caused by most of the factors which are synonymous with a common wildfire. Higher temperatures and man-made activities are the biggest contributors to these alarming forest fires with the latter being the more significant factor than the former.

Another major contributor to the occurrence of wildfires is the poor health of forests. Most forests aren’t generally taken care of by the administrative authorities and the lack of maintenance and good care makes them more prone to forest fires.

Lastly, droughts and lack of rainfall have been another reason why these forest fires have gone on to destroy acres of vegetation. Relating it to the first point, lack of rainfall raises the surface temperature of these areas which causes them to store more heat than they usually do. At a certain stage, the threshold breaks and this leads to the formation of these fires.

What are the Effects of a Gigafire?

If you thought that these bushfires had the same impact as that of a normal wildfire, you may be in for a rude shock. These forest fires maybe 100 times more dangerous and damaging than the ordinary ones which we generally hear of.

Some of the many effects of these threatening phenomena include- temporary or permanent loss of vegetation, permanent reduction in the fertility of the soil, and large-scale increase in the level of air pollution in the affected and surrounding regions.

In some instances, these fires have led to the formation of pyrocumulus or a fire-breathing cloud which can give rise to more wildfires, if it doesn’t disappear. The only ways to remove such clouds are by either waiting for them to naturally disappear or by inducing artificial rainfall with the help of silver pellets.

Sometimes, even prayers can work as a way to eliminate forest fires!

Historic Gigafires

While there have been many instances of a megafire, gigafires have been relatively unheard of. However, the Australian bushfires of 2019-20 were the first known instance of a gigafire, but somehow it didn’t garner enough attention from the media and by silvologists across the globe.

The second and the most prominent gigafire has been the August Complex Fire of 2020 which had taken place in Northern California. The wildfire began in August 2020 and went on till October 2020 which made it the deadliest wildfire of 2020.

As per official records, the August Complex Fire went on to destroy nearly 1,00,000 acres of land which is more than the entire population of the state of Arizona. The fact that the fires had taken place in a remote location made things more difficult for the firefighters to douse the fire.

How to Extinguish a Gigafire?

Since a gigafire is the most dangerous and contagious wildfire to ever exist, it does pose a major challenge for the firefighters to devise an effective plan to extinguish such fires.

The first and foremost thing to do is to have an estimate of the calamity and allot the resources accordingly. The next step would be to reach the site and spot the areas of smoke for they are critical to determining the affected areas. The heavier the layer of smoke, the greater the intensity of the fire!

Next would be to attack the gigafire using all the available resources such as water hoses, sand, aerial- silver pellets (if needed). After that. a thorough check would be done to ensure that no area has been left out. Lastly, there would be an assessment of the aftermath and decide whether to declare the area safe or not.

Now that you know in depth about this vicious phenomenon, do pass this valuable piece of information to everyone that you know. After all, knowledge shared is knowledge gained!