In this section we focus on the fundamentals of fire itself — the requirements for ignition, definitions of regime, the influence of weather, the influence of topography, and fuel characteristics and dynamics — in order to understand consequent fire behaviour in the landscape.

An understanding of these fundamentals of fire will underpin the preparation of burning plans. An understanding of the fundamentals of fire and responses of biota, at the population, community and ecosystem scales, will inform the development of fire management planning strategies.

Fire is a common occurrence in the savannas and woodlands of northern Australia. But, first, what really is fire?

More to fire than smoke and flames

For a fire to occur three things are needed: fuel, oxygen and an ignition source. Without one of these elements, a fire cannot start.

Biomass + oxygen + kindling temperature = carbon dioxide + water + heat (+ trace gases and release of nutrients)

C6 H10O5 + O2 + kindling temperature = CO2 + H2O + heat

Activity: Fire ignition

What allows ignition to occur?

The occurrence of fire requires initial ignition. Whelan (1995, p.10) briefly discusses the need for enough heat from external sources to start a fire.

What difference do you think it would make if the fuel is (a) cold (b) contains a high percentage of moisture?


Whelan, R.J. (1995) The Ecology of Fire, p.10. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.


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