“Due to climate change, wildfires are growing in size, frequency, and intensity, and wildfire seasons are becoming longer.”

Mikie Sherrill, Politician

Causes, Effects & Solutions for Wildfires

causes, effects and solutions for wildfires

Wildfires have become quite common over the past decades. While they had also been present for many thousands of years, the number of forest fires has vastly increased over time.

This is due to the fact that an increasing number of wildfires are no longer caused by natural forces, but by human intervention. In this article, the causes, effects and solutions for wildfires are discussed in detail.

Audio Lesson

Causes of Wildfires

  1. Lightning
  2. Volcanoes
  3. Earthquakes
  4. Droughts
  5. Constitution of forests and regions
  6. Heat
  7. Littering
  8. People burn their trash in or near forests
  9. Cigarette disposal
  10. Campfires
  11. Fireworks
  12. Car accidents
  13. Some people even cause wildfires intentionally

Lightning

One cause of wildfires is lightning. During thunderstorms, there is the risk that a flash will hit trees and due to the enormous heat that occurs in those moments, chances are that trees begin to burn.

If those small fires are not extinguished pretty soon, they may turn into significant forest fires that can get out of control pretty soon.

Volcanoes

In areas with serious seismic activity, volcanic eruptions can be another cause for wildfires. During volcanic eruptions, significant amounts of lava will reach the earth’s surface.

Lava is pretty hot and if lava gets in contact with trees or other bigger plants, chances are that the local flora will be ignited.

Earthquakes

Earthquakes can be another factor when it comes to wildfires. During earthquakes, many houses and other infrastructure buildings get destroyed. In turn, plenty of inflammatory materials will be lying around.

In such situations, only small sparks are enough to light up wildfires and since people often use candles in those situations due to a lack of electricity after earthquakes, forest fires can spread quite easily.

Droughts

Whether forest fires can really spread or not also greatly depends on how dry the land in the respective region really is. If there is constant rain, the chances for wildfires are much smaller compared to a state where there are excessive droughts.

In fact, the dryer a region is, the more likely it is that wildfires will occur sooner or later. Hence, especially if you live in a rather dry region, be aware of the fact that you will be at greater risk to suffer from the consequences of wildfires.

Constitution of forests and regions

In general, the risk of wildfires also greatly depends on the overall constitutions of forests. For instance, if trees are pretty close to each other and forests are dense, there are higher chances that wildfires can spread compared to a state where there are only a few trees per square mile.

This is due to the fact that the fire will have it much easier to spread if there is sufficient material that can be burned.

Heat

Climatic conditions also play a role when it comes to forest fires. The hotter it is in a region, the more water plants and trees will need to stay vital and healthy.

Consequently, also the chances for dry plant material increases significantly in dry regions of our planet.

In turn, the risk for wildfires increases as well since the dryer plant material is, the easier fires can be ignited.

Littering

Apart from the natural causes of wildfires, there are also many man-made reasons why wildfires can occur. For instance, one man-made cause of wildfires is littering. People often dispose of their waste in nearby forests or meadows.

While this might be quite convenient for locals, it can have serious adverse effects on our environment. Quite often, those materials are highly burnable and the disposal of those substances in nature can vastly increase the risk for forest fires.

People burn their trash in or near forests

People even burn their trash in local forests from time to time. While this is often allowed in many regions of our planet, it can still increase the risk of wildfires since many people underestimate how fast a small fire can turn into catastrophic wildfires.

Cigarette disposal

Another cause of forest fires is incorrect cigarette disposal. Many people just dispose of their cigarettes wherever they stand. While this might not be a big problem in big cities since there will often be not enough burnable material around to start fires, it can lead to horrible outcomes in rural areas or even forests.

In fact, many people underestimate the heat that is still contained in their used cigarettes which can easily be enough to start forest fires if plant material is sufficiently dry.

Campfires

Also many campers contribute to an increased risk of wildfires. While campfires can be quite a lot of fun, sparks from those campfires can ignite the trees nearby.

If you watch your campfire closely, you will often have no problems since you could stop potential wildfires before they have the opportunity to spread.

However, some people also leave their campfires unattended and this can lead fires to get out of control.

Fireworks

I think most of us agree that fireworks are pretty and if they are handled in a responsible manner, the risk of serious accidents is rather slow. However, many people are just not responsible and also make fireworks near forests.

Since some rockets will not fly straight into the sky but will rather fly into nearby trees, forest fires due to the irresponsible use of fireworks are quite common.

Car accidents

You might not know it, but car accidents can be another serious cause of wildfires. Through accidents, plenty of sparks will be spread and if those sparks reach dry plant material, those sparks can be enough to start wildfires.

This is also the reason why you see firefighters approaching many accidents. Apart from extinguishing fires that might occur inside vehicles, they also have to make sure that no forest fires start in the nearby environment.

Some people even cause wildfires intentionally

You may not believe it, but there are even people out there who start wildfires intentionally. I don’t know what’s going on in the minds of those people. Maybe they are mentally sick or just frustrated with their lives.

Either way, those intentionally-started forest fires are not that uncommon and this says a lot about our current society in my opinion.

Effects of Forest Fires

  1. People lose their lives
  2. People lose their homes
  3. Many people have to relocate to other regions
  4. People lose everything they worked for their whole lives
  5. Local poverty will increase significantly
  6. It can take many years to rebuild local infrastructure
  7. Decreasing soil quality
  8. Farmers may lose cattle
  9. Farmers may lose crops
  10. Many animals lose their lives
  11. Reforestation will take decades
  12. Global warming
  13. Biodiversity loss
  14. Air pollution
  15. Particle pollution
  16. Soil erosion can be a problem
  17. Increase in insurance premiums
  18. Wildfires can lead to health problems
  19. Local unemployment may increase
  20. Overall quality of life will decrease in those regions

People lose their lives

One sad result of wildfires is that many people lose their lives due to wildfires each year. In fact, many people just underestimate that is inherent in wildfires and are just not willing to leave their homes behind. Some people also just want to die inside their own four walls and don’t want to give up their houses.

Consequently, the unlucky fraction of people will just lose the fight against the flames and this leads to many fatalities each year.

People lose their homes

While some people lose their lives, many others who had been willing to leave their houses will just lose their homes. Quite often, firefighters will just not be able to extinguish big fires fast enough to protect nearby houses.

In fact, firemen are often rather helpless since fires are just overwhelming and heavy winds often even make the situation worse.

Many people have to relocate to other regions

People who lost their homes also have to relocate to other regions or have to buy other homes nearby. Quite often, the surrounding environment will also be destroyed and will just no longer look pretty.

Hence, the incentive to move to other regions will be pretty strong. In turn, this could also exacerbate the housing crisis since population density will increase if some areas are no longer suitable for housing purposes due to wildfires.

People lose everything they worked for their whole lives

In general, the sad truth is that some people will lose everything they worked for their whole lives due to wildfires. Many people worked for decades to pay off their mortgages for their homes and all their belongings have also been inside their four walls.

This also implies that by losing their house, those people will not have any assets left. In turn, some of those people will even end up homeless since they will often not be able to pay rent for a new place anymore.

Local poverty will increase significantly

Since some people will lose the majority or even everything they ever owned, wildfires will also cause significant local poverty. People will just have less disposable income since many of them have to start paying rent instead of living in a home that has already been paid for.

Consequently, an increasing fraction of peoples’ income will have to be spent on housing and this implies that people will have less money to spend on other things they need.

It can take many years to rebuild local infrastructure

If you have a look at pictures of big wildfires, there is no doubt that it will take many years or even decades to rebuild all the houses and infrastructure that has been lost due to those wildfires.

In fact, many people may also just give up and will leave those areas, which leads to a state where it takes even longer to rebuild everything since there will just be a shortage of workers and capital in those regions.

Decreasing soil quality

Due to the enormous heat, also the soil will be altered in a rather undesirable manner. In fact, the soil will often lose its fertility and may no longer be suitable for agriculture anymore.

Consequently, this can lead to serious problems for the local population, especially in poor regions where people often rely on food supply of local farmers to survive.

Farmers may lose cattle

Farmers may also lose a significant fraction of their cattle due to wildfires. In fact, farmers will just have no chance to rescue their cattle, especially if wildfires have gotten out of control.

In many cases, those farmers just have to watch their farm animals die, which is not only horrible from an ethical perspective, but also from a financial perspective.

Farmers may lose crops

Farmers who don’t raise cattle will still lose significant crop yields due to wildfires. Plants are just immobile and this means that once wildfires reach crop fields, farmers will just have no option other than to let their plants burn down.

Especially for farmers who rely on crop yields as their main income, this can be horrible since they will just not make any income in the respective year while they still have significant fixed costs. In turn, some farmers even have to file bankruptcy due to wildfires.

Many animals lose their lives

Apart from farm animals, also many wild animals lose their lives in wildfires. Those animals will simply not know what to do since the size of wildfires will often just be overwhelming and animals often don’t react early enough to save their lives.

Reforestation will take decades

Reforestation will also often take quite long. Since big forests will be destroyed in wildfires, it can take many decades to reconstruct those forests. In fact, trees grow rather slow and it can take a tree more than 50 years to reach a decent size.

Consequently, whole areas of land will look quite poor for a rather long period of time after wildfires.

Global warming

Since trees are natural carbon storage spaces, wildfires will also lead to a state where significant amounts of greenhouse gases will be emitted into the atmosphere.

We all know that greenhouse gases contribute to global warming and the more greenhouse gases are emitted into the air, the faster climate change will progress.

Biodiversity loss

Since many plants will be destroyed during wildfires and many animals will lose their lives, also the overall populations of those organisms will decrease significantly. In turn, this could lead to the endangerment or even to the local extinction of species.

Since our ecosystems are rather sensible and natural processes are closely connected to each other, the drop in population of certain animal or plant species can also lead to ecological imbalance and to serious biodiversity loss.

Air pollution

Obviously, wildfires also lead to serious air pollution. Quite often, people who live many miles away from those wildfires will still suffer from poor air quality since the smoke will be carried by winds over quite long distances.

Particle pollution

There will also be plenty of fine particles emitted into the air through wildfires. If plant material burns down, fine particles be distributed into the air and those fine particles can lead to serious pulmonary issues, at least if the concentration of those particles in our air is sufficiently high.

Soil erosion can be a problem

While firefighters only have the best intention when they try to extinguish wildfires, they often have to use excessive amounts of water for it.

In turn, this often leads to a state where the soil will become rather fragile since there will just be too much water around.

In some cases, this can lead to soil erosion and may destroy additional buildings in the nearby surroundings.

Increase in insurance premiums

People who live in areas that had been hit by wildfires before also often have to pay quite high insurance premiums if they want to be covered in case wildfires destroy their homes. This is quite logical since the higher the risk of wildfires in the respective region, the higher insurance premiums have to be to hedge against this threat.

However, this also implies that people living in those regions will often not be able or willing to pay significant amounts of money on this kind of insurance and will not be covered in case of emergency due to that.

Wildfires can lead to health problems

Wildfires can not only take away the lives and belongings of people, they can also contribute to serious long-term health issues. In fact, many people who had been exposed to smoke from wildfires for a longer period of time complain about breathing issues.

Also the risk for lung cancer and heart attacks increases due to bad air quality caused by wildfires.

Local unemployment may increase

Since plenty of local infrastructure will be destroyed in big wildfires, many people will also just lose their jobs. Companies will just no longer be able to do their work and supply chains may collapse. In turn, many workers will just no longer be needed and will be laid off.

Overall quality of life will decrease in those regions

After big wildfires, the landscape will just no longer look the same as before. While there often had been pretty forests and meadows, all those things are gone after wildfires. In fact, those regions often just look like black deserts.

Moreover, since plenty of infrastructure buildings will be destroyed in wildfires, you will also just no longer be able to spend your leisure as you have been used to before since many locations will just be closed.

Consequently, wildfires often also have a horrible effect on the quality of life of people in general.

Wildfire Solutions

  1. Stricter regulations regarding waste disposal
  2. Stricter regulations regarding campfires
  3. People should dispose of their cigarettes properly
  4. We should take measures to slow down climate change
  5. Only use fireworks in a responsible manner
  6. Proper education of our children
  7. Raising awareness of people on the problem of wildfires in general
  8. Controlled forest fires
  9. Installation of early-warning systems
  10. Respect our environment

Stricter regulations regarding waste disposal

Since incorrect waste disposal is one major cause of wildfires, governments and municipalities all around the world have to introduce stricter rules regarding the disposal of waste nearby forests and other areas that are easily inflammable.

In most cases, it would be better just to dispose of waste by putting it into the trash bin instead of disposing of it in nature. Correct waste disposal is crucial, not only to reduce the risk of wildfires, but also to reduce environmental pollution in general.

Stricter regulations regarding campfires

Many campers are also still not aware of the fact that campfires pose a significant threat to our environment since they often cause wildfires. Especially if campfires are not watched closely, they can lead to horrible outcomes.

Consequently, there should also be much stricter regulations on how, when and where to start campfires to minimize the risk of the spread of forest fires.

People should dispose of their cigarettes properly

We also have to tell people to dispose of their cigarettes in a proper manner. Proper doesn’t mean disposing of cigarettes right where you stand. Proper means disposing of them in places where they cannot cause any damage to our environment.

Especially if you are in natural environments, make sure that you don’t just throw your used cigarettes onto the ground, extinguish them properly and take them home with you.

By doing so, you can not only avoid wildfires, but you can also reduce the land pollution problem.

We should take measures to slow down climate change

The hotter and dryer it is in a region, the higher the chance for wildfires since plant material will be easily flammable in those regions.

Consequently, we should also think about measures related to how we can reduce global warming if we want to confine the damage from forest fires.

Only use fireworks in a responsible manner

If you are a firework practitioner, you don’t have to fully abandon your hobby. It will be enough to refrain from using fireworks in places that are close to forests or other burnable plant material.

Hence, while using fireworks in big cities may not be a huge problem, doing it in rural areas with plenty of inflammable material around you can lead to a significantly higher risk of wildfires. Thus, keep this in mind the next time you use fireworks.

Proper education of our children

If we want to reduce the wildfire problem efficiently in the long run, we also have to educate our children according to that. In fact, education is key to solving many problems and wildfires are no exception. Only if we teach our younger generation how they can minimize the risk of wildfires, we will have a chance to make a true long-term impact in this regard.

For instance, if you make a camping trip with your children, this will be the perfect opportunity for you to teach them about the dos and don’ts. In turn, your children will become more aware of the wildfire problem and also about protecting our nature in general.

Consequently, they will also be more likely to behave eco-friendly in the future and can make a truly positive impact once they turn into grownups.

Raising awareness of people on the problem of wildfires in general

While you might be aware of the forest fire problem, many other people just don’t know or just don’t care about it in a sufficient manner yet. In fact, people have their own problems in their lives and may not care about wildfires too much since it is just not on their priority list.

However, if we want to reduce the wildfire problem in the long run, we have to raise awareness of people so that they understand that this problem has to be tackled by everyone of us.

Controlled forest fires

It may sound counterintuitive at first, but controlled forest fires can also reduce the risk of forest fires that may get out of control. By burning some areas of land in a controlled manner, wildfires will no longer have enough plant material to spread in those regions and in some cases, it is just better to burn down plant material in a controlled environment than just waiting for the next wildfire to hit and to get out of control.

Installation of early-warning systems

It is also crucial that the local population will be informed early enough in case of wildfires. Only then will it be possible for those people to escape the flames or to take other measures to protect their homes in time.

Respect our environment

Wildfires also often just occur since people just lack respect for our environment. If people cared more about how their actions affect our environment, we would have far fewer cases of wildfires.

Thus, make sure that you act in an eco-friendly and responsible manner so that you can make your contribution to reducing the wildfire problem.

Conclusion

As we have seen before, wildfires have become a serious problem over the past decades. However, many wildfires are caused by human intervention.

This is indeed good news since it also implies that we have control to solve this issue if we take appropriate measures to do so.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wildfire

https://www.ready.gov/wildfires

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wildfires

About the author

My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.

As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.

After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.

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