I want to know if a living rainforest in the Amazon, completely untouched by humans, is too wet for the fire to spread, even in the dryer months around July?

I.e. if somebody dropped 5000 gallons of gasoline there, put it on fire, would the fire spread, or would it die out after the gas has burned, because it is still too wet there?

Or is it that the only areas that burn are those where the trees have been cut down (deforestation), the dead trees and remaining vegetation then have to dry out during the (relatively, for a rainforest) dryer months, and only then are they able to burn? Or does the fire spread into the actual living rainforest?

  • $\begingroup$ You have a misconception forest fires rarely consume entire forests, and in only few natural forest does fire spread easily. More often than not when they do spread easily is usually due to humans screwing with said forest, say by preventing fires for so long excessive amounts of fuel builds up. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Aug 25 '19 at 5:13
  • $\begingroup$ This recent (9 Sep 2019) news items might be of interest - Gold Coast hinterland fire prompts question — can rainforests burn?. Basically, rain forests should not burn, but under extreme conditions, such as dry conditions resulting from a prolonged drought, they can burn. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Sep 9 '19 at 8:57

My personal experience of rainforest is confined to Malaysia, where it is too damp to burn unless it is first cut down and allowed to dry out in the sun. The fires on these ladangs, as they are called, never spread to nearby rainforest, and abandoned ladangs eventually become rainforest again. I have some knowledge of other rainforests and have come to the conclusion that true rainforest is similar to Malaysia's. Throughout the wetter parts of the tropics, where there is not rainforest there is a kind of forest called monsoon forest which is only wet for a few months of the year. After that it dries out and eventually loses it's leaves as though it were winter.

Often it is fairly close to real rainforest, so there is a gradual transition from monsoon forest to rain forest. Both kinds are found in Amazonia and Central America, Dropping 5,000 gallons of gasoline into a rainforest to see if it would burn would be regarded as very odd nowadays, but it frequently happened in WW2. Allied and Japanese aircraft were frequently shot down and crashed into the jungle, seldom with 5,000 gallons of fuel aboard but certainly enough to cause a fire. In Malaya and Borneo the jungle never caught fire, and although this happened all over S.E.Asia, surprisingly enough I have never heard of an incident where the jungle caught fire. There is some monsoon forest in India, but the fighting there was confined to Assam, where it is rainforest.

In modern times a large jet occasionally crashes into jungle, but again I have never heard of one setting he jungle alight. Jet fuel, of course, is not as inflammable as gasoline. Some of the fires in Brazil currently shown on TV look as though it is the sort of scrub which springs up on land which was once cultivated.

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    $\begingroup$ This answer speculates that the wildfires in Brazil is on lands which was once cultivated. You could have at least attempted to understand where the wildfires are and what’s burning instead of relying on a few shots from TV. $\endgroup$
    – Gimelist
    Aug 24 '19 at 21:16
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks I appreciate the answer. You are right it depends on what kind of vegetation one means, I mostly had in mind what sees in the Wikipedia page of "Amazon rainforest", i.e. thick luscious tall trees densely and completely covering the land: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon_rainforest#/media/… In the news I see areas that look more like there are just bushes or very sparse trees burning, so I was wondering if the real rainforest also burns. Good to know! $\endgroup$
    – aldkold
    Aug 24 '19 at 23:16
  • $\begingroup$ Also found this article, which describes the fires as the final phase of deforestation (i.e. after cutting down the trees) and says that most of the current fires are due to that, and not due to primary rain forest burning, because "A tropical rainforest is generally not flammable", however the primary rainforest may or may not also start to burn if it gets very dry france24.com/en/20190824-why-is-part-of-the-amazon-burning $\endgroup$
    – aldkold
    Aug 25 '19 at 1:44

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