What Causes Wilfires
An in-depth study shows that an average of 62,805 wildfires started per year between 2011 and 2020, which destroyed 7.5 million acres annually. Further research reveals that since the 1980s, there has been a rise in the amount of land ravaged by wildfires.
Climate change is a leading factor in increasing the extent and risk of wildfires across the U.S. Wildfire risk depends on several factors, including soil moisture, the presence of trees and shrubs, temperature, and other potential fuels.
These unplanned and unwanted fires are caused and fueled by various sources and environmental factors. Here we discuss how wildfires start and how you can prevent them:
What Causes Wildfires?
Wildfires are known to rapidly burn millions of acres of land, destroying everything in their path. These shockingly fast-rolling flames travel at an average speed of 14 miles per hour and can quickly overtake the average human in a couple of minutes.
Wildfires need three important elements to start and continue burning:
- Fuel- It may be in the form of live trees, dead trees, vegetation such as shrubs, and other organic matter
- Oxygen- From the air around us
- Heat- To ignite and fuel itself, typically sourced from lightning or human sources
While wildfires are classified as ‘natural disasters,’ a mere 10 to 15% of wildfires occur independently. The remaining 85 to 90% of wildfires are caused by human activities, like burning garbage, unattended campfires, arson, and discarded cigarettes. Let’s discuss the difference between natural and human-caused fires:
Lightning is the primary source of natural wildfires. In fact, an estimated 60% of wildfires in the Province are caused by lightning strikes. When lightning strikes, it creates enough heat to ignite fuel sources like a tree.
While these wildfires are not preventable, you can reduce and manage their severity with the help of land management activities. These include fuel management, landscape fire management planning, and prescribed burning.
However, other causes fall in the natural category. These include rockfall, meteorite, and volcano, although these are rare.
There are numerous ways that human activities can cause wildfires, regardless of whether it’s intentional or accidental. Wildfire-causing anthropogenic activities include:
- Dropping burning substances like cigarettes
- Open burning
- Sparks from power lines or railroads
- Using engines or vehicles
- Human related activities that ignite a spark like burning debris
Keep in mind that human-caused wildfires are almost always preventable.
The Bottom Line- How are Wildfires Stopped?
Firefighters combat catastrophic wildfires by depriving the fire of one or more of its fundamental elements. One popular way of battling blazes is by dousing them with water and spraying strong fire retardants.
Firefighters also work in teams called ‘hotshots’ to eradicate vegetation from the land around the fire to starve it off fuel. They may even backfire to put a stop to wildfires.
This method is virtually fighting fire with fire in which the prescribed controlled fire is used to remove brush, litter from the forest, and meeting to deprive the devastating fire of fuel.