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The U.S. Wildfire Season: The Worst Fires in a Decade

Thursday, October 26, 2017 5:48
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Last month’s wildfires were among the worst fires in a decade, and climate change experts are now warning of the increased risks of wildfires due to global warming. This year, the U.S wildfire season has been the worst many have seen, with the most recent 2 million acres set ablaze and a life-threatening fire ploughing through Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, destroying everything in its path. Including the beautiful natural landscape and homes.  

The total of land burned this season totals 8 million acres, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). That’s bigger than it’s been in a long time and the season has lasted longer than previous years. So how did we get here and why are we experiencing such intense forest fires in 2017?

Is Global Warming to Blame?

Forest fires can occur naturally and in extreme heat, can be ignited from direct sunlight or a strike of lightening. However, the majority if these fires are a combined cause of humans and Mother Nature at play. Often resulting from carelessness; and this includes everything from campfires not being put out properly, discarded cigarettes which are still lit, burning debris or fireworks.

In 2017, this has been accelerated by the very sudden temperatures in spring. With grass and trees drying out very quickly, providing fuel for wildfires. Combined with summer lightning storms and reduced rainfall, western U.S in particular, has suffered from damage.

Environmental experts, such as Jonathan Overpeck from the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability, believe that climate change is one of the factors increasing the risk of grass and bushfires. The hotter, drier climate is caused by global warming and it does indeed make vegetation more flammable.

As the climate across the globe continues to warm at the rate it is, moisture and precipitation levels will change rapidly. Posing a very big problem in the future, and making the U.S wildfire season much more dangerous and damaging.

Forest Fire Safety Education  

Just this year, thousands of homes and structures been destroyed in the U.S from forest fires. And with the wildfire season lasting longer than it has done previously, there are still large fires burning right now. In order to prevent the spread of wildfire during hot weather, it’s important for fire safety education to be provided, starting from an early age.

It’s never too early to start educating children about fire safety; and with the appeal of camping outdoors and lighting campfires every summer, it’s important for parents to share the knowledge of campfire safety.

In addition to campfire safety training, brushing up on wildfire safety is also essential for anyone who lives near a forest or in a high risk zone. Educating in schools about wildfires will help to a) prevent them in the first place as most wildfires are started by human carelessness and b) provide essential information on how to evacuate.

The biggest question the U.S faces right now is whether homes should be rebuilt in wildfire zones. Or whether at-risk communities should be relocated altogether to prevent deaths and further building destruction.

 

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