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Depending on the type of vegetation where it occurs, a wildfire can also be classified more specifically as a brush fire, bush fire, desert fire, forest fire, grass fire, hill fire, peat fire, vegetation fire, or veld fire.Analyses of historical meteorological data and national fire records in western North America show the primacy of climate in driving large regional fires via wet periods that create substantial fuels or drought and warming that extend conducive fire weather.
Building codes in fire-prone areas typically require that structures be built of flame-resistant materials and a defensible space be maintained by clearing flammable materials within a prescribed distance from the structure.Forested areas cleared by logging encourage the dominance of flammable grasses, and abandoned logging roads overgrown by vegetation may act as fire corridors.Annual grassland fires in southern Vietnam stem in part from the destruction of forested areas by US military herbicides, explosives, and mechanical land-clearing and -burning operations during the Vietnam War.The most common cause of wildfires varies throughout the world.In Canada and northwest China, for example, lightning operates as the major source of ignition.As the front approaches, the fire heats both the surrounding air and woody material through convection and thermal radiation.
First, wood is dried as water is vaporized at a temperature of 100 °C (212 °F).
Next, the pyrolysis of wood at 230 °C (450 °F) releases flammable gases.
Finally, wood can smoulder at 380 °C (720 °F) or, when heated sufficiently, ignite at 590 °C (1,000 °F).
In other parts of the world, human involvement is a major contributor.
In Africa, Central America, Fiji, Mexico, New Zealand, South America, and Southeast Asia, wildfires can be attributed to human activities such as agriculture, animal husbandry, and land-conversion burning.
In China and in the Mediterranean Basin, human carelessness is a major cause of wildfires.