We see numerous acres of land destroyed by wildfires every year, along with great loss of human life including that of our brave wildland firefighters conducting missions to save lives at the fire scenes. Much to our regret, these deadly fires, mostly avoidable, are caused due mainly to human error or negligence. Therefore, every one of us is duty bound to do whatever it takes to prevent the wildfires so that the annual numbers of them can be considerably reduced. Before this could be done, you need to know the leading causes of wildfires.
Human Error or Negligence
Wildfires, considered by many as one type of natural disasters, are not always caused by natural phenomena, but human activity instead. The following sections will explain how we might cause devastating wildfires, intentionally or not.
Burning debris might be one of the leading causes of wildfires. When one burns garbage, trash, or plant materials, escaped sparks or stray embers carried by wind can easily ignite dry vegetation or any flammable items for miles. Soon a wildfire will start relentlessly. Therefore, special attention needs to be paid to burning debris.
Most importantly, any tiny little thing that can ignite the fires mentioned above should be cautiously dealt with according to local regulations. You should bear in mind that burning trash is not always allowed all the year round in wildfire-prone areas. Even in places without wildfire risks, you still need outdoor burning permits before burning anything.
In addition, it is very important to check the weather conditions. Before you burn, make sure that the weather is cool, the wind gentle, and the vegetation moist enough. The debris piles should be kept in an area of 4ft x 4ft and clear of any flammable materials within a 10-foot radius.
Unsafe Campfire Practices
Another major cause of wildfires is unsafe campfire practices. That means it is highly likely that a full-blown wildfire will start if you do any of the following:
- Leave the campfire unattended: Look around the campsite before starting your campfire. Make sure all the flammable objects, including your tents, gear, and vehicles, are far away enough from the campfire and upwind of the firepit. Not by any means will you leave your campfire unattended. Unattended campfires get out of control faster than you imagine.
- Let the campfire goes awry: Sometimes the size of your campfire grows larger than expected due to dry air and strong wind. Of course, you want to control the fire instead of being controlled by the fire you improperly make. Bring your fire extinguishers with you just in case. It is always useful to keep a pile of sand or water nearby to put out uncontrolled flames. Don’t forget to call 911 for assistance before it is too late.
- Just Smother your campfire: You don’t simply leave or go to sleep in your tent when the extinguished campfire is still too hot to touch. Ambers can last for hours and ignite spot fires miles away. Make sure the campfire is completely put out by waiting until no smoke can be seen in the firepit and the coal ash is cold enough to touch.
Lit Cigarette butts
Lit cigarette butts cause a great number of wildfires each year as well. Regrettably, you can see so many careless smokers tossing lit cigarette butts almost everywhere. This is something more devastating than just littering because a lit cigarette butt tosser might become an arsonist when such a reckless behavior starts a massive wildfire. Make sure you soak your cigarette butts and ashes in water before you throw them in the trash can.
Much to our surprise, car accidents, including collisions and malfunctions, also cause wildfires frequently. As you know, cars contain a variety of flammable materials and objects in either liquid or solid form, so it is not uncommon for them to catch fire for all sorts of reasons.
It’s not difficult to see that an old exhaust system will cause carbon buildup or could have poorly greased bearings. When towing a trailer, a vehicle may have its chains dragging on the ground that causes flying sparks. Likewise, a car accident might sever cables and cause sparks that can ignite fuel. Therefore, have your vehicles maintained regularly and pay particular attention to driving safety can save your life and largely prevent wildfires as well.
Besides careless human actions, intentional behaviors play a prominent role in wildfires. Arson is defined as the criminal act of deliberately setting fire to property. About 25% of all wildfires is caused by arson in the U.S. every year. Ironically, it is very difficult to prevent and apprehend recidivist arsonists, and aggressive prosecution might be one of the most effective ways to prevent them from setting fires repeatedly. You should contact the authorities immediately if you suspect someone of arson. The more arsonists can be deterred, the lower chances of wildfires we will have.
Naturally Occurring Wildfires
Natural factors account for 10% of the wildfires, in contrast to the prevailing human-related factors previously described. Ultimately, we’ll elaborate on two of the natural phenomena most likely to cause wildfires.
It is not uncommon for lightning to start wildfires, especially when continuous lightning bolts strike dry debris. As part of Mother Nature, these disasters are inevitable.
Another culprit is lava, which generally means molten rock expelled from a volcano when it erupts. Lava flows, usually at temperatures from 800 to 1,200 °C, cause not only wildfires, but also massive damage and destruction to life and property in their path. Thankfully, wildfires that start from extremely hot, burning lava are only seen in volcanic areas, such as the Hawaiian Islands.
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