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Lesson Plans
Forest Fires



Forest Fires

Grade Level

  • Grade 5

Main Idea

Forest fires can start from many different ways. Some fires are good for the environment and some are harmful for the environment. The types of forest fires can show how and when a fire started and how to fight the fire.

Subjects Covered

  • English Language Arts
  • Fine Arts
  • Science

Objectives

Students will be able to describe:

  • How fires are good and bad.
  • Elements that can start a fire.
  • Two types of forest fires.

Teacher Notes

A "Teacher Background Information" handout is available for additional teaching notes.

Materials

  • "Good and Bad Fires" handout
  • "Fire Starters" handout
  • "The Story of Smokey" handout
  • "Teacher Background Information" handout
  • "Types of Forest Fires" handout
  • Two pieces of RED construction paper
  • "Fire Game Rules" handout

Vocabulary

Surface Fire
Fire which burns the surface litter and debris of the forest floor as well as the low vegetation; fire behavior is variable depending on conditions and may sometimes reach into the tree crowns.
Wildfire
sweeping and destructive conflagration especially in a wilderness.
Crown Fire
Fire that travels through the top layers of trees or shrubs, more or less independent of surface fire.

Outline

  1. Distribute the "Good and Bad Fires" handout to each student.
    1. Once students have completed the worksheet have class brainstorm other ways that fires are good and bad. Collect answers on the board.
  2. Distribute the "Fire Starters" handout for each student to complete.
  3. Brainstorm with class way to prevent fires. Use "Teacher Background Information" sheet to help stimulate discussion.
  4. Read students the story of Smokey Bear from "The Story of Smokey" handout.
  5. Ask students:
    1. What was the forest like that Smokey lived in?
    2. Do you think that weather is important to wildfires?
  6. Have students draw a picture of what Smokey's home looked like.
  7. Distribute the "Types of Forest Fires" to each student. Have students fill in the blanks as teacher reads the following information.
    1. The main 2 types of forest fires are Surface Fires and Crown Fires. A Surface Fire burns all the dead leaves and branches on the forest floor. These fires are good for animals because they burn all the dead leaves that are hiding plants and grasses that animals eat. Crown Fires grow very fast and can jump from the top to trees. They are called Crown Fires because they are like a crown on top of a tree. Because the Crown Fires can jump the move faster then the surface fire.
  8. Play the "Fire Game" with students.
  9. Once the game has been played 2 or 3 times have students return to their desks.
  10. Brainstorm with class why the crown fire may "jump".

Extensions Activities

Discussion Topics:

  1. What are some of the things you know about the forest fires in BC?
  2. Do you know some of the places where forest fires have occurred this summer?
  3. What does a "community" mean to you?
  4. Brainstorm ways to reach out to those communities affected by forest fires.

Journal Topics

  1. How was your summer holiday differed from that of some other BC children?
  2. Do you know anyone who was personally affected the forest fires this summer? How were they affected?
  3. Did forest fires personally affect you or your family this summer? How?

Resources

www.theexplorationplace.com

Teacher Background Information

Before disposing of ashes, follow these steps:

  1. Place ashes in a metal container, or on bare earth, never in paper or plastic bags or cardboard boxes.
  2. Wet the ashes and stir as you add more water to make sure they are dead cold!

Camp Fire Safety

Follow the guidelines below for setting up and extinguishing your campfire.

  1. Be careful where you build your campfire: Select an open level spot away from trees, overhanging branches and dense dry grass.
  2. Be sure your fire can't spread: clear a ten-foot fire circle to bare soil around where your campfire is going to be. (scrape with your shovel)
  3. Dig a shallow hole in the center of your fire circle then circle the pit with rocks to shelter the campfire from the wind and help keep burning materials inside the pit.
  4. Never leave your campfire unattended and always have a shovel and bucket of water on site.
  5. When finished, drown your campfire thoroughly with water and stir the ashes.
  6. Scrape all embers off of the partially burned sticks and logs.
  7. Check the entire area outside the campfire circle for any hot embers. Remember that it only takes one spark or ember to start a forest fire!
  8. Add more water to your fire and stir again until it's cold.

How Fires Start

Fires can start two ways, naturally caused or human caused. Naturally caused fires usually start by lightning. Human caused fires are due to a number of reasons. These can be accidental or deliberate and can start by, smoking, campfires, recreation, and equipment use. Human fires consist of the greatest amount of fires, however natural fires consist of the greatest amount of land lost. Human fires are usually detected early while natural fires can burn for hours before being detected.

How a forest fire burns.

There are three elements that are required for a forest fire to burn. These include heat, oxygen and fuel, also known as the "fire triangle". Fire will spread in the direction where these elements are most profound.

Parts of forests burned.

There are three parts of the forest where fires can burn.

  • Ground Fires: occur on the ground below the leaves
  • Surface Fires: occur on the surface of the forest up to 1 meter high
  • Crown Fires: occur in the tops of trees. They are the most dangerous and can spread the fastest.

Fight Forest Fires

Once a fire has started, fire fighters must be transported to the fire location. Most often fire fighters have to be transported by air and then walk in with their equipment.

  • Digging trenches down to the bare soil that can not burn controls ground fires. When the fire reaches the trench it is starved of fuel and extinguishes itself.
  • Portable water backpacks and firebreaks control surface fires.
  • Crown fires are controlled by aerial support with fire retardant chemicals and water.

Prescribed Burns

A prescribed burn is a tool that firefighters use to reduce the "fuel" for the fire. This fuel is considered to be leaves and branches littering the forest floor. Many birds and animals rely on fires to change the environment in a way that is beneficial to them. Prescribed burns are only done when the weather conditions are right. The wind has to be blowing lightly in the right direction to move the fire across the area that the firefighters want.

The firefighters use natural breaks, like rivers, or roads to stop fires. They then carefully set a fire that will burn away from that line. Some times firefighters will set "back fires" that will burn back into the original fire, using up the fuel and then the fire burns out.

Fires Are GOOD and Fires Are BAD

Put the following words by the correct sentences.

CampfiresHumans
ForestsHouses
HeatCooking
LightStores

Fire is GOOD for:

  1.  
  2.  
  3.  
  4.  

Fire is BAD for:

  1.  
  2.  
  3.  
  4.  

Fires Are GOOD and Fires Are BAD

Answer Key

Put the following words by the correct sentences.

CampfiresHumans
ForestsHouses
HeatCooking
LightStores

Fire is GOOD for:

  1. Camp Fires
  2. Heat
  3. Cooking
  4. Light

Fire is BAD for:

  1. Forests
  2. Humans
  3. Houses
  4. Stores

How Fires Can Start

Put a check mark beside how fires start and an x beside things that don't start fires.


Humans

Lighters

Animals

Matches

Balls

Water

Lightning

Leaves

Tents

Campfire

How Fires Can Start

Answer Key

Put a check mark beside how fires start and an x beside things that don't start fires.


Humans

Lighters

Animals

Matches

Balls

Water

Lightning

Leaves

Tents

Campfire

The Story Of Smokey

It was a hot, dry May in the Lincoin National Forest in New Mexico. Deer rested under cool trees. Fish hid along cool stream banks. Sticks and pine needles on the forest floor were so dry that they would crackle and crunch when animals or people walked on them.

One day, a person who was visiting the forest was careless with fire. No one know if he dropped a lit match, or left his campfire burning, or forgot to crunch out a cigarette. But everyone knows what did happen next. The little spark, caused by one person, quickly became a huge wildfire.

The animals, birds, and fish tried to escape the fire. Some could not escape. Even in streams, fish choked on ash from the fire. Many firefighters worked for five days to put the wildfire out.

When the fire was finally out, the firefighters found a frightened bear cub clinging to a burned tree. Bits of the cub's fur and his paws had been burned in the fire. The firefighters took care of the bear cub until his injuries were all healed. They named the bear "Smokey".

Smokey Bear became a living symbol of wildfire prevention. He travels around the country, telling boys and girls how they can help prevent wildfires.

Types of Forest Fires

P981.23.50
Eagle Lake Fire in 1925

  1. The two main types of forest fires are                        fires and                        fires.
  2. A surface fire burns dead                        and dead                        from the forest floor.
  3. Surface fires are                        for animals in the forest.
  4. Crown fires can                        from tree to tree.
  5. Crown fires move                        than surface fires

Types of Forest Fires

Answer Key

P981.23.50
Eagle Lake Fire in 1925

  1. The two main types of forest fires are          crown         fires and         surface        fires.
  2. A surface fire burns dead         leaves         and dead        branches        from the forest floor.
  3. Surface fires are          good          for animals in the forest.
  4. Crown fires can          Jump          from tree to tree.
  5. Crown fires move         Faster         than surface fires

Forest Fire Game

Set Up

  1. Have students stand in a circle around the outside of the class room.
  2. Give one student 2 pieces of red construction paper.

Rules

  1. One piece of red construction paper is a Surface Fire and must be passed along to each student down by their feet.
  2. The other piece of red construction paper is a Crown Fire and must be passed along to students above their heads.
  3. The Crown Fire construction paper does not have to be passed to each student because it can "jump".
  4. As students are passing around the "fire" have them quietly say together "Surface, Crown, Surface, Crown, Surface, Crown" until the game is over.
  5. Once one type of fire/construction paper has been passed along to the first student the game is over. Note the location of the other fire.
  6. As each student recieves a piece of construction paper they have to shout a fire starter. There may be 2 students shouting at one time. A student can not pass the construction paper to another student unless they state a fire starter.

Play this game 3 times to observe the outcome at the end. Which fire reached the student who started the game first.


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