A wildfire, wildland fire or rural fire is an uncontrolled fire in an area of combustible vegetation occurring in rural areas. Depending on the type of vegetation present, a wildfire can also be classified more specifically as a brush fire, bushfire (in Australia), desert fire, forest fire, grass fire, hill fire, peat fire, vegetation fire, or veld fire. Many organizations consider wildfire to mean an unplanned and unwanted fire, while wildland fire is a broader term that includes prescribed fire as well as wildland fire use (WFU; these are also called monitored response fires). Fossil charcoal indicates that wildfires began soon after the appearance of terrestrial plants 420 million years ago. Wildfire's occurrence throughout the history of terrestrial life invites conjecture that fire must have had pronounced evolutionary effects on most ecosystems' flora and fauna. Earth is an intrinsically flammable planet owing to its cover of carbon-rich vegetation, seasonally dry climates, atmospheric oxygen, and widespread lightning and volcanic ignitions. Wildfires can be characterized in terms of the cause of ignition, their physical properties, the combustible material present, and the effect of weather on the fire. Wildfires can cause damage to property and human life, although naturally occurring wildfires may have beneficial effects on native vegetation, animals, and ecosystems that have evolved with fire. High-severity wildfire creates complex early seral forest habitat (also called "snag forest habitat"), which often has higher species richness and diversity than unburned old forest. Many plant species depend on the effects of fire for growth and reproduction. Wildfires in ecosystems where wildfire is uncommon or where non-native vegetation has encroached may have strongly negative ecological effects. Wildfire behavior and severity result from a combination of factors such as available fuels, physical setting, and weather. Analyses of historical meteorological data and national fire records in western North America show the primacy of climate in driving large regional fires via wet periods that create substantial fuels, or drought and warming that extend conducive fire weather. Strategies for wildfire prevention, detection, control and suppression have varied over the years. One common and inexpensive technique is controlled burning: intentionally igniting smaller fires to minimize the amount of flammable material available for a potential wildfire. Vegetation may be burned periodically to maintain high species diversity and limit the accumulation of plants and other debris that may serve as fuel. Wildland fire use is the cheapest and most ecologically appropriate policy for many forests. Fuels may also be removed by logging, but such thinning treatments may not be effective at reducing fire severity under extreme weather conditions. Wildfire itself is reportedly "the most effective treatment for reducing a fire's rate of spread, fireline intensity, flame length, and heat per unit of area", according to Jan Van Wagtendonk, a biologist at the Yellowstone Field Station. Building codes in fire-prone areas typically require that structures be built of flame-resistant materials and a defensible space be maintained by clearing flammable materials within a prescribed distance from the structure.