Wildfires can burn across many acres of land, consuming everything in their path. Uncontrolled blazes fueled by weather, wind and dry underbrush can destroy miles of wilderness in minutes. Sometimes caused humans, other times by nature, wildfires can cause massive damage and cause very dangerous situations for people and wildlife. On average, more than 100,000 forest fires clear 4 to 5 million acres of land in the United States every year. In the past few years, wildfires have burned over 9 million acres of land across the US. Wild land fires can move across land at speeds up to 14 miles per hour, consuming brush, trees, homes and even humans in its path. There are three conditions that need to be present in order for wildfires to flourish. Firefighters refer to this as the ‘fire triangle.” These three items are fuel, oxygen and a heat source. Fuel can be any flammable material surrounding a fire, including trees, grasses, brush and even homes. The greater the area’s fuel load, the more intense and dangerous the fire can become. Air supplies the oxygen, while a heat source sparks the fire by bringing the fuel source to temperature hot enough to ignite. Feel free to find more information at what causes the spread of a wild fire
Four out of five forest fires are started by humans. However, nature is almost always a catalyst in contributing to the fires. Drought can convert green vegetation into bone dry flammable fuel. Strong winds can spread wildfires in a matter of seconds. Warm temperatures encourage combustion. When all these factors combine, it creates a condition extremely favorable for destructive wild land fires to wreak havoc. Firefighters, using special fire safety equipment battle wildfires by depriving them of one or more of the fire triangle fundamentals. Traditional methods include water dousing and spraying fire retardants to extinguish existing fires. Clearing vegetation to create firebreaks starves a fire of fuel and can help slow down or contain it. Firefighters also fight wildfires by deliberately starting fires in a process called controlled burning. These prescribed fires remove undergrowth, brush, and ground litter from a forest, depriving a wildfire of fuel. Although destructive to humans, wildfires play an important role in the natural balance and life cycle. Fires return nutrients to the soil while clearing dead vegetation, providing a fertile ground for new vegetation and wildlife to flourish. By burning through thick canopies and brushy undergrowth, wildfires allow sunlight to reach the forest floor, enabling a new generation of seedlings to grow.