Introduction to Wildfires

Focal Region of United States of America


Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Wildfire’s Wide-Ranging Impacts:

Wildfires affect millions of individuals across the world with primary or secondary impacts. The most common idea of a wildfire relates to the removal of forests and homes via fire and destruction. However, several other issues arise when the forest burns. Although there aren’t direct impacts for those don’t witness the fires, indirect impacts often lead to dozens of consequences down the road with impactful attributes for years and centuries to come. The causes of wildfires remain well known, from natural lightning strikes to anthropogenic causes. Regardless of the primary factor, there are several factors that fuel a wildfire to enhance its potential devastation.

Wildfire Factors

Wildfires are fueled by several features that not only impact the size of the fire, but the strength as well. Although it is paramount to understand what a wildfire is and how it impacts everyday life, the causes and dangers behind the blaze are of significant importance as well. These causes include the following…

  • Lightning Strikes
  • Dry Climate/Drought
  • Human Causes (cigarettes, illegal burning, ect.)
  • Out of Controlled Burns/Campfires
  • Arson
  • Volcanic Eruptions
Polymer Science Learning Center Fire Triangle

Wildfire Ingredients

Beyond the ability to identify the causes of a wildfire, key ingredients are required for any wildfire to ignite. These fires are not able to thrust into action under any random condition. Heat, oxygen, and fuel are the three primary requirements for a wildfire to ignite. Below are several other factors that may benefit the ignition of a fire…

  • Dry Vegetation
  • Rotted Forests
  • Strong, Gusty Winds
  • Low Humidity
  • Oxygen
  • Heat

What areas of concern are being examined due to wildfires?

  • Air Quality
  • Water Quality
  • Vegetation
  • Soil Content
  • Biodiversity
  • Habitat Life
  • Economics
  • Mass Movement
  • Water Runoff
  • Public Communication
  • Emergency Management

Climate Trends of Wildfires

Wildfires are often assumed to have seasonal characteristics based upon the meteorology and climate of specific locations. However, that is not always true. With climate change becoming a large driver in damaging and wide-range impacts thanks to dangerous storms, it is likely that it is also increasing the threat for wildfires. Temperatures have been increasing over the last 50 years. Along with heightening temperatures, strong droughts have been more common across the western states, ranging to lack of rainfall during monsoon season, to little snowpack at winter’s end across California. Without cooler temperatures and additional moisture, wildfires are waiting to spread with the spark of a flame. Since 2010, fire season as averaged an increase in length compared to the early 2000’s and decades before that. Wildfires in the western U.S are now 1.5 to 6 times more likely to occur than the previous decade thanks to anthropogenic causes. This can be attributed to a warming climate and increased available fuel to burn. The amount of surface that was burned during 2003-2012 was ten times greater than that of 1973-1982. This impacts not only the ecology of the land, but the individuals who reside downwind of these locations. In 2015, Alaskan wildfires raged havoc on the land that was previously untouched. Anthropogenic caused forced an additional 34-60% of burning in a single calendar year. With the global temperature rising quickly, locations that are nearly three degrees Celsius are twice as likely to suffer from wildfires than locations at a mere two degrees Celsius. With increasing fires and coverage burned, health hazards, structural hazards, and natural hazards will increase annually in the short and long term future with both negative and positive attributes.

Wildfire Impacts:

Wildfires are destructive in all regions of the world. Although this blog focuses on the primary impacts in the United States, this descriptive, but brief, YouTube video illustrates the potential devastation to those in British Columbia, Canada. This video covers several issues that have been touched on above from human health, mass movements, water, air, and soil quality, deforestation, and even snowmelt or lack of snow cover in future winters. Different types of forest may burn or ignite with a few distinct variables. However, the overall affect and impact of these fires throughout different regions remains nearly the same.

2021 United States Wildfire Facts

With the statistics for the United States 2021 wildfire season now complete, it has been confirmed that this past year has seen top 10 record damage from thousands of fires that raged havoc across the country. These fires burned a massive amount of acreage, burned nearly double the average acreage compared to 2020 per individual fire, and impacted millions of individuals across the country. Most of the wildfires were focused across the western states, with a few scattered fires breaking out across the south. The NIFC has created a scale ranging from one to five based upon impacts and resources used to fight these fires. For 14 straight weeks, the scale failed to drop below a level four. When used at a level five, nearly all resources have been exhausted from local, state, and national levels. The 2021 season was one that saw significant drought dominate the western states, as well as continuous rounds of dangerous heat. One of the largest fires that took place in 2021 was the September Calder Fire, among several others. This YouTube video shows just a brief glimpse of how significant these fires were and how damaging to the environment they became.

  • 58,733 Fires Burned
  • 7.13 Million Acres Burned
  • 121 Acres Burned per Fire
  • $4.4 Billion
  • Level 4 & 5

Summary in a Flash:

Wildfires have an incredible force behind them, terrorizing the natural landscape and humanitarian response efforts. Although there are several layers to one single subject, each layer relates to one another. Land impacts, biodiversity, airborne hazards, policy and communication all play a role in stopping and reorganizing the positives and negatives of these fires. While understanding the devastation associated with them, it is paramount to recognize the precautions that can be taken to minimalize these impacts. Check out the links below on more information and preventative measures for your home and property to do your part in saving lives and the environment.

Looking Ahead

While covering the basics of wildfires, several topics have been tackled such as the meanings, variabilities and impacts, and potential wide-ranging affects of these large fires. However, are wildfires solely a negative aspect in the biome that we live our daily lives throughout? Ironically, there are a multitude of positive impacts, affects, and future attributes that can be positively related to wildfires. Such topics and respective areas of study may be related to vegetation growth, the natural removal of structures, preventative measures of future wildfires, and other impacts. These attributes will be spoken for throughout the next blog that will be structured around the positive and beneficial factors of wildfires.

Additional Links:

Climate & Meteorology of Northeast Wildfires

https://journals.ametsoc.org/view/journals/wefo/28/1/waf-d-12-00009_1.xml?rskey=qMgSmM&result=1

Wildlife Threatened by Fires

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/kidspost/painted-lady-butterfly-migration/2021/09/21/13b7fb22-0a92-11ec-9781-07796ffb56fe_story.

2021 Wildfire Summary

https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/fire/202113

FEMA: Property Protection & Safety

Climate Change and Increasing Wildfires

Works Cited

NCEI.Monitoring.Info@noaa.gov. (2022, January 2). Wildfires – annual 2021. Wildfires – Annual 2021 | National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). Retrieved January 30, 2022, from https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/access/monitoring/monthly-report/fire/202113

3 reasons wildfires are getting more dangerous-and 3 ways to make things better. The Wilderness Society. (2019, May 21). Retrieved January 29, 2022, from https://www.wilderness.org/articles/blog/3-reasons-wildfires-are-getting-more-dangerous-and-3-ways-make-things-better?gclid=Cj0KCQjwyMiTBhDKARIsAAJ-9VuYXoIJtymcD0Cobf7xNWjw4jH_IQaVMK2pLAVRlj62eOvlAHqM89UaAk9xEALw_wcB

Wildfires and climate change. Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. (2022, February 22). Retrieved February 23, 2022, from https://www.c2es.org/content/wildfires-and-climate-change/

Wildfire ignition, behavior and effects. Idaho Firewise. (2019, December 2). Retrieved January 15, 2022, from https://idahofirewise.org/fire-ecology-and-management/wildfire-ignition-behavior-and-effects/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: