IELTS Reading Exercise 6
Choose ONE word or number from the reading passage for each answer.
You And Forest Fires
Forest fires raging out of control, wildfires, are an awesome and terrifying sight. They have aroused fear from earliest times. The damage they do is appalling. Forest wildfires spoil natural beauty and lower the quality of our environment by destroying countless graceful trees, spoiling lovely scenic vistas, and adding to pollution of the countryside. They make forest recreation areas, roads, trails, and streams less attractive to campers and picnickers and to boating, swimming, hiking, and skiing enthusiasts. They contribute to serious erosion and floods, which waste the richness of the earth.
With no bed of leaves and mulch to absorb rainfall, the water runs quickly over the bare ground. Soil and ash are then washed into streams, rivers, lakes, and community reservoirs, killing many fish. As lakes and reservoirs fill up with silt, they hold less water. In some cases, reservoirs fill up with silt in a few years, making them useless for community water supplies. When rains are heavy in burned-over areas, rivers fill quickly and their banks overflow. Damage to communities and farmlands downstream is often severe, and many times the whole nation shares in the cost of rehabilitation. Raging fires can be very damaging to wild animals and birds.
Forest wildfires destroy vast amounts of valuable timber. This timber is needed to build our homes and our furniture, to supply us with paper of all kinds (from grocery bags to newspapers to stationery to facial tissues) and for many other products for home and industry. A single fire in Oregon in 1933 destroyed more timber than was harvested in the entire country for a whole year. Wildfires also kill the young trees, the timber for tomorrow. They often change a forest of valuable trees into a forest of inferior trees - 'weed trees'.
Repeated fires often prevent a new forest from starting, leaving large scarred, barren areas, which must be replanted at great cost. In the United States in 1978, there were more than 215,000 wildfires. They burned almost 4,000,000 acres. One acre is about the size of a football field. Thats nearly 8,000 square miles, an area about as large as the State of Massachusetts. And this wasteful burning goes on every year. What can we do about it? The best way to keep forest fire damage low is to keep fires from getting started.
First, lets see how these wildfires get started, and then what is being done about them, and finally what we can each do to prevent them.
There are two basic sources of forest wildfires. One is nature, by lightning. The other is people. Lightning is a serious cause of wildfires in the mountains of the West and in Alaska. These fires are often in remote areas where they are difficult to reach and put out, so they can become large fast. They average a total of nearly 1,000 square miles a year over the whole country including Alaska.
People cause wildfires in many ways, both intentionally and accidentally. Over the country as a whole by far most of the fires and most of the damage are caused by people. Their acts are responsible for 9 out of every 10 forest fires. What kind of acts? The principal ones are incendiarism (arson), debris burning, smoking, campfires, and equipment use. In every case, either lack of knowledge of the hazards, failure to take proper precautions, stubbornness, maliciousness, or carelessness is involved.
Lets examine each of them briefly. Incendiary fires are those set deliberately to burn or spread to the property of others without the permission of the owners. Sad to say, more wildfires are due to this cause than any other. More than half the area burned in the South each year is the result of incendiarism. Three out of every ten fires in the United States during the past five years were traced to incendiaries. They burned an average of about 1,000 square miles a year, about the size of the State of Rhode Island.
Almost as serious are fires that are set to burn debris, but which escape from control into adjoining woods. These fires burn about 500 square miles a year. Incendiarism and debris burning together account for over half the annual burned area in the Northeast, over twothirds in the Midwest, and three-quarters in the South.
Smokers are also a major cause of wildfires, around 250 square miles a year. Quite a few fires also spread from cooking fires and warming fires built by campers, hikers, hunters, fishers, and others. About one half as many fires are caused by equipment (trucks, cars, farm machinery, logging equipment, etc.) used in or near woods as by lightning.
Since people cause most wildfires, we all have a part in preventing them. We can be more careful ourselves. And wherever we are and whatever position we are in, we can influence others to use more care with fires. Many forest fires are started accidentally by ranchers, farmers, and homeowners in rural areas when they burn debris. Under the right conditions such fires can spread rapidly to other property and to woods. Debris burning is something many of us can be much more careful about. The rules are: Never burn trash outside in dry weather on windy days. Always have plenty of available help, tools, and water nearby. Dont burn debris near woods or buildings or near fields or dry grass. Burn only on bare ground or in a metal container. Clear everything away down to bare ground for 10 feet in all directions before burning. It is usually safer to burn late in the day. Always check first to see if local or State laws require a permit to burn brush, debris, etc., and get one from your fire warden or ranger, if needed.
Many of us are, at different times, picnickers, campers, hikers, fishers, or huntersand we can unintentionally start forest fires with our cooking fires, campfires, or warming fires. It is good practice to: Clear everything away that could burn, down to bare earth in a circle 10 feet in diameter. Dig a hole in the middle and build the fire there; keep it small. Never build a campfire against trees, logs, or near brush. Before you leave your fire, stir the coals while you pour water over them. Turn the Sticks over and Soak both sides as well as the earth around the fire. Make sure all sparks are dead out by feeling the embers with your bare hand.
When riding or walking through the woods, be careful with discarded cigarette and cigar butts, pipe ash, and matches. Never throw butts or burnt matches from a vehicle; they should go into the car ashtray. When on foot, clear a spot down to bare earth for your used cigar, cigarette, or pipe ash. Grind it into the ground with your heel. Before tossing it away, hold your burnt match until the end feels cold to your touch. At home, of course, keep matches out of the reach of children. Young children accidentally set many forest wildfires.
We have seen that incendiarism, deliberately setting fires to the property of another without permission, is the leading cause of wildfires. To help counteract this, we should report promptly any incident of suspected incendiarism (and all fires) we see to police or forest officials.
Source: You And Forest Fires, 1978
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