Common Causes of Wildfires
A wildfire is the potentially deadly catalyst that starts as an uncontrolled fire in a large undeveloped and un-populated area. If the response to these fires is not timely they can quickly get out of control and end up destroying homes and agriculture and killing animals and human life in their path. As many as 90 percent of wildland fires in the United States are caused by human carelessness or criminal intent. An unattended campfire, the burning of debris, negligently discarded cigarettes as well as intentional acts of arson are some of the ways that people cause tragedy. Wildfires can also be caused by an accumulation of dead matter (leaves, twigs, and trees) that create enough heat in some instances to spontaneously combust and ignite the surrounding area. Man-made combustion from arson, carelessness and lack of fire safety cause wildfire disasters every year. However, weather conditions contribute to the occurrence of wildfires as well. Lightning strikes or extended dry spells causing drought are weather related agitators. Lightning strikes the earth over 100,000 times a day and 10 to 20% of these lightning strikes can cause fire. An average of 1.2 million acres of US woodland burn every year. And sadly a large wildfire is even capable of modifying the local weather conditions and producing its own weather.
Summer is coming and many of us will be camping in the woods. We have known Smokey the Bear all our lives and have the responsibility to share his critical message with the next generation of campers. I love the commercial where Smokey comes out of the woods and gives a young camper a hug for carefully putting out his campfire. You can't help but smile. The message is stated subtly but is a good reminder of the detailed instructions Smokey has provided for years on how together we can prevent foret fires. As Smokey advises, keep campfires at a managemable size, allow wood to burn to ash completely, and pour a substantial amount of water on all embers until hissing sound stops. If you do not have water, stir up the dirt or sand into the embers with a shovel and bury the fire making absolutely sure no embers are exposed and still smoldering. One last word of caution from the Bear who knows, “If it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave.”