A forest fire broke out in Uljin, Gyeongsangbuk-do, around 11:17 a.m. on March 4, 2022. The forest fire spread not only to the northeast of Uljin but also to Samcheok, Gangwon-do. The cause of the forest fire is presumed to be from cigarettes because the fire broke out immediately after three vehicles passed the initial ignition point.
The east coast forest fire, which started in Uljin and spread to Samcheok was contained after 213 hours and 43 minutes (about 9 days) with 20,000 ha of forest burned, setting a record for the longest-lasting forest fire since 1986 when the Korea Forest Service compiled related statistics. In addition, the estimated area of the damage was 29,923ha (18,463ha in Uljin, 2,460ha in Samcheok), the second largest in history after the wildfire on the east coast in 2000 (23,794ha). Fortunately, there were no casualties, but the area of property damage and loss is large. A total of 643 structures, including 319 houses, 139 agricultural and livestock facilities, 154 factories and warehouses, and 31 religious facilities, were lost, resulting in 337 victims.
The Korea Forest Service, along with the Korea Forest Welfare Promotion Agency and the National Trauma Center, announced that it will promote "psychological support activities linked to forest healing" to overcome the mental trauma people who worked hard to put out the forest fire and victims. To this end, the Korea Forest Service plans to make efforts to help people recover psychologically by using the Korea Forest Welfare Promotion Agency's healing forest, national forest healing facilities, and forest healing programs for about eight months.
The reason why forest fires have increased in frequency and scale is that there was very little snow or rain in winter. With little precipitation, the atmosphere and land became dry, and strong winds blew, making the flames bigger. Experts say the root causes of such winter and spring droughts and strong winds are climate change and global warming. Global warming increases the sea level temperature and increases the land temperature. As the land temperature increases, the humidity of the forest decreases, leaves in the mountains dry out, and the frequency of forest fires increases. Large forest fires not only cause enormous economic damage, but also increase carbon emissions from burning trees, creating a vicious cycle of climate crisis. Climate change began due to the carbon we emit, and such global warming causes large forest fires, and carbon generated by forest fires accelerates the climate crisis again.
In spring, even small fires can cause large forest fires, so thorough management and caution are needed. Wildfires can be prevented only when people actively participate, such as not throwing away cigarette butts, cleaning fallen leaves and trash around the house, thorough storage of flammable substances, not burning rice paddies and fields, and thorough fire management.