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Truth about Wildfires: Wildfire Causes and Effects

Wildfire burning down all the trees

Wildfire is now an alarming global concern as it is currently faced by many countries all over the world. It is known to be uncontrollable and spreads shockingly fast. Burning all kinds of plants, crops, animals, grasslands, and significantly causing air pollution. Furthermore, wildfire smoke contains a mixture of carbon monoxide and other hazardous air pollutants that is harmful to the body. Naturally, wildfires occur and start during the dry season or droughts. But little that we know, only 10% - 20% of them are caused by natural forces like lightning strikes and 80% - 90% are caused by humans as a result of unattended fire camp debris, improper disposal of cigarettes, and arson. Yes. We shouldn’t ignore the fact that humans play a vital role in the quick spread of this disaster. In addition, the government authorities failed to do immediate action to control the fire and allowed human schemes that would eventually cause forest fires like mining and logging activities. It is important to be educated about the wildfire causes and effects.

Wildfire Causes and Effects

Causes of Wildfires

Climate Change

There are a number of potential factors which contribute to wildfire risks such as, warmer temperature, moisture of the land, the appearance of dried lives, shrubs, trees, and other possible fuel-like chemicals in the area. Over the years, widespread wildfires are typically associated with global climate change. Based on studies, shifts of the Earth’s temperature creates warmer and drier weather conditions which leads to higher risk of active and longer fire seasons. As the climate change lengthens the dry season, it threatens the increase of wildfire frequency, range, and its extremity. Additionally, once a fire has ignited, dry weather conditions also help the fire to move quickly and make them even harder to put out. The average extent of the fire season in Western United States alone is more than three months, which is quite a lot longer than a few decades back. Causes also include the continued melting and shrinking of snowpacks overtime which decreases water availability and makes the forest more flammable because of the lack of moisture.

Fire fighter trying to contain the fire

Natural Causes

Lightning and volcanic activities are two of the major natural phenomena that cause wildfires. Often, when lightning strikes a tree it ignites fire, but with the help of the strong wind and very low humidity level, and the presence of dry shrubs and grasses along the area, forest fires can spread rapidly and can happen simultaneously. Wildfires caused by lightning occur in the absence of rain or what they refer to as “dry” thunderstorms.

Human Activities

A high percentage of forest fires are caused by human activities rather than natural forces. Human-sparked wildfires start commonly because of careless campers, burning leaves in your backyard, electrical power lines and equipment, vehicle crashes, cigarettes, and arson. Satellite data shows that these blatant activities spread fire relatively faster, kill more forest creatures and threaten homes twice as much as lightning-induced fires can do. While these individual human-caused problems are still a major reason for the ignition, it will still fall to the root cause – institutional problems.

Way back in 2022, the Amazon wildfire was caused by the growing industrial agriculture which is the major reason for deforestation. Cattle ranchers and illegal land seizers set fire to Amazon forest to illicitly claim the land and perform destructive expansion of their businesses. These reckless people are willing to sacrifice the forest in exchange for the higher profit they can get from the global meat industry.

Amazon wildfire in Brazil
Amazon Wildfire

Effects of Wildfire

People exposed to wildfire could suffer both physical and mental effects. Close range contact to flames can result in eye irritation, burns, injuries, other heat-related illnesses like dehydration and heat-stroke and possible death. Serious burns should be under intensive care as it is prone to causing other multi-organ complications. They also produce harmful smoke, fine particulates, and generate greenhouse gasses while they burn. Mariposa County in California was well-known for its clean air but was ranked as having one of the highest air concentrations of fine particles in 2020 because of its recent severe wildfire. Another effect of wildfire is water contamination caused by dangerous substances that may leach into the nearby body of water, wherein it is not safe for human consumption any longer.

Wildfire in Lahaina, Hawaii

Catastrophic scene in Maui's forest fire
Lahaina Wildfire

In Lahaina, Hawaii, the damage of the latest wildfire is still hard to estimate. How many buildings and houses have been burned down and other structures that have been impacted. Maui officials are still not sure how many people who have tried to escape the catastrophe are still missing. Moreover, they released to the press that the wildfire already claimed 53 lives and they are expecting the number to rise. This will make Lahaina’s forest fire the second deadliest blaze in the United States, trailing the California Camp Fire in 2018, killing 85 people. More than 80% of Lahaina’s land area was destroyed by the wildfire and is anticipated to progress. The source of this apocalyptic event is still unknown.

Trivia: The Largest Wildfire in World History

Largest wildfire recorded in the world history.
Siberian Taiga Fire

2003 Siberian Taiga Fires in Russia – the largest wildfire that pushed over 55 million acres across Siberia, Far Eastern Russia, Northern China, and Northern Mongolia.


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