every year, wildfires are a pervasive threat that is on the increase. They are fires that cannot be controlled and destroy everything in their way in a matter of minutes. In Australia, wildfires are called “bushfires” and are extremely frequent (particularly in the summer) and deadly. Additionally, there are over 75,000 wildfires reported in the United States every year¹. The causes of wildfires are numerous and varied. Shockingly, as many as 90% of wildfires are caused by humans, and the remaining 10% are started by lightning or lava².
The manmade causes of wildfires are quite easy to prevent, if you follow some basic instructions.
This is one of the leading causes of wildfires. It’s easy to take some basic steps to prevent your campfires getting out of control and turning into a wildfire. Make sure your campfire is not too big – it needs to be small enough to be easily controlled by you. Surround your fire by stones to prevent it spreading across the ground. Finally, keep a bucket of water nearby so that if it does start to get out of control, you can quickly reign it in. When you’ve finished with your campfire, make sure to completely douse it in water to fully extinguish it³.
Firstly, if fireworks are illegal where you live, don’t use them! If they are legal, then only use them in strictly controlled circumstances. Only use them on flat surfaces, such as dirt or cement. Ensure there is no dry grass or sticks nearby, and don’t do it anywhere near forest. It’s all common sense!
Burning waste in the backyard
Obviously, this can cause a wildfire if your burn off is not strictly controlled. Although taking your garden waste to the tip might seem annoying and time-consuming, it is a much better alternative to potentially causing a wildfire in your own backyard! In any event, some local councils do not even allow for waste burning in the backyard – it is illegal in a lot of places. If it’s illegal where you live, don’t do it. If it’s legal, be extremely careful and take steps to control it in the same way as you would control a wildfire.
Throwing a cigarette on the ground or out a car window is not only illegal in many countries, but also has the potential to cause devastating wildfires. Considered a form of littering, this careless act can have terrible consequences.
A little-known cause of wildfires, cars and other vehicles can also be responsible for starting a blaze. Often, it is the exhaust heat that can ignite dry leaves or tinder⁴.
In summary, we can all do our part to help prevent the devastating effects of wildfires. Comply with the local law regarding fires and other activities, and take precautions to ensure a casual backyard bonfire or camping fire doesn’t turn into a deadly blaze.