Writing About a Forest Fire: A Guide

I live in a place that regularly has forest fires. It gets so dry here in July-September that even the Sahara desert has more humidity, and it gets easy for the place to catch on fire. Actually, the forests are prepared to deal with this, and even need the fire to grow back stronger. Besides, I live in Brazil, and they’re always burning the Amazon down. So, I’ve seen my share of fires. I can help you with writing tips about it.

Writing about a Forest Fire: Main Tips

  • How will the fire be?
  • How did it start?
  • Trees description
  • Wildlife description
  • Humans description
  • What’s being done to stop it?
  • The consequences

Writing about a Forest Fire: How will the fire be?

As I’ve said many, many times, you have to think about where this element fit in the story. Why do you want a forest fire? Is it crucial to the story? How is it going to change your plot and characters? You need to know that, so you know how big it will be, why and how did it start, and how this will change the course of your plot.

The first thing to think about is if this fire is going to be massive or small. Then, you have to think about how it will be possibly controlled, if the firefighters can do anything to help, or if it will burn for days. Also, you have to think about the role of your characters regarding this fire. Will they help to put it out? Will they let the fire go on until it burns everything down to ashes? How will they feel about it? And why is it happening?

After you planned the proportions of the fire, you can go on.

Writing about a Forest Fire: How did it start?

Now that you’ve decided how big the fire is, its duration, and stuff like that, it’s time to think about how it started.

Was it an accident? Or did somebody do it on purpose?

Was it because someone was smoking? Or did they use a lighter? Or maybe it was just a bolt of lightning during a storm that hit a tree and it caught on fire.

Did your characters have any relation with the start of the fire? Did they see who did that? Was one of them? Were they in the place where it started? Were they far away?

How did they first hear about the fire? What was their reaction?

Writing about a Forest Fire: Trees description

Now, it’s time for the description. The first thing readers are expecting to read about is the trees. As in any description, don’t bore your readers to death with the whole picture. Just some keywords and details are enough. For example:

Wood burning. The smell. Ashes everywhere. The sound of the fire. The fear. Trees dead as toothpicks.

Just that would be enough to paint the picture of a forest fire. You can describe the trees getting dark, and dying. Or maybe the ones that are resisting bravely. That’s up to you.

Writing about a Forest Fire: Wildlife description

One of the saddest parts about forest fires is the wildlife. The forest is their home, and it’s being destroyed. Now, you gotta describe the animals running away, or even dying being consumed by the fire. How sad and detailed this is going to be is up to you, but it’s not something that can be ignored, as it’s a huge part of a forest fire.

Writing about a Forest Fire: Humans description

A forest fire affects humans too. Maybe it’s too close to somebody’s home, and they have to flee. Or it makes it harder to breathe because of the ashes and the smoke. Or maybe somebody was around the forest when it started.

You have to think about the humans that are near the forest and describe what they’re doing, how they’re feeling or if they’re trying to escape, if they’re going to lose their houses, or if they’re going to venture into the fire for some reason.

It doesn’t matter if the fire is in the middle of a seemingly desert area, there probably will be humans around.

Writing about a Forest Fire: What’s being done to stop it?

We’ve talked about how it started, now we need to think about how to stop it. Is it possible to stop it with water? Can the firefighters help? Will the characters try to stop it themselves? Will the fire simply burn everything to the ground because it’s too big to be contained? Think about that and how this will affect your story. This can completely change where your plot is going, as a fire is very dangerous, and could possibly even kill one of your characters.

Writing about a Forest Fire: The consequences

A forest fire has consequences.

Maybe it was the reason one of your characters went to jail if they started it.

Maybe the fire made the news.

Maybe it killed and destroyed.

Or maybe nothing happened.

Either way, you have to think about how this fire will change the story and the plot. If it was a major deal, maybe the consequences will be severe. It can traumatize your characters, or even be the climax of the story. If it was minor, maybe there won’t be much to be done.

Also, a fire will change the society around them. What will be done to prevent another fire? Did anybody lose their homes? What happened?

Writing about a Forest Fire: Final Thoughts

I hope this made it easier for you to write about a forest fire, and what it intakes. Go slowly, step by step, and watch your description. It can feel overwhelming writing about a forest fire, but it’s not, as long as you follow the steps and think about the picture in a whole.

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