Terms You Should Know About Wildfires



A large and destructive fire that's typically aggravated by strong winds that carry burning debris over natural or artificial barriers.

Crown Fires:

Fires spread by wind moving quickly along the tops of trees.

Dry Thunderstorm:

Typically a thunderstorm with a high altitude base in which thunder and lightning are observed, but little or no rain reaches the ground.

Fire Fuels:

All the dead and living material that will burn, including grasses, dead branches and pine needles on the ground, as well as standing live and dead trees, and minerals near the surface or artificial structures.

Ground Fires:

Fires that burn on or below the forest floor through the root system. Usually, they are started by lightning.


The use of helicopters to transport crews, equipment, and fire retardants or suppressants to the fire line during the initial stages of a fire.

Ladder Fuels:

Fuels (like shrubs and branches) that carry the fire from the ground to the tops of trees, the same way a person would climb a ladder.

Natural Barrier:

An area that does not have flammable material (such as a stream) and can help keep wildfires from spreading.

Prescribed Fire:

Using fire as a forest management tool for a particular purpose in a defined area to accomplish a specific task such as improving forage and habitat conditions for wildlife, or to reduce hazardous buildup of fire fuels.

Santa Ana Winds:

The name given to the gusty northeast or east wind that occurs in Southern California during the fall and winter months. Santa Ana winds are often hot and very dry, greatly aggravating the fire danger in forests and bush lands.

Surface Fires:

The most common type of wildfire, move slowly and burn along the forest floor, killing and damaging vegetation.

Wildland Fire:

This is any fire burning (uncontrollably) in wildlands, including all prescribed fires. Evidence of free-burning fires has been found in petrified wood and coal deposits formed about 350 million years ago in the Paleozoic Era.  

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