Just Explain It: Wildfires On The Rise

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.  And scientists predict we’ll be seeing a lot of both in the coming decades.
 
Already, wildfires have torched around 40,000 acres of land in California alone.  The average for this time of year is 1,200 acres.  Officials say the peak fire season has started weeks in advance and will last into the fall. 

Because federal, state and local agencies are involved in wildfire suppression, it’s hard to come up with an accurate damage estimate.  However the National Interagency Fire Center says almost $2 billion were spent putting them out in 2012.

In today’s Just Explain It, we’ll take a look at why scientists believe wildfire activity is on the rise and what areas of the United States will be affected.
 
Each year wildfires burn an average of four to five million acres of land across the country. In 2012, 9.3 million acres of land and more than 4,400 structures were destroyed.  That’s the third highest number of acres burned since 1960.

And scientists estimate that number’s gonna go up. Why? Well they say greenhouse gas emissions will cause drier conditions and then more fires – extreme fires - in the next 30 to 50 years. And higher temps and lower rainfall have increased the probability of a dangerous fire season.
 
Will 2013 top last year? It might.  The U-S Forest Service expects a busy season. That’s because drought conditions will continue through the fall in much of the South and Southwest. The predicted hot spots are Southern California, New Mexico, Arizona and Florida.

It was previously thought that Americans would only see one year of excessive fire activity per decade.  But now -- according to new climate models -- we could see up to four high-fire years per decade by 2050.
 
So, how are wildfires started in the first place?  In the U-S, humans are the main cause.  In fact, we’re six times more likely than a natural event – like lightning – to start a wildfire.  And that adds up. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, humans caused over 58,000 of these fires in 2012. Things like fireworks, cigarette butts, campfires and arson may have sparked them.  That same year lightning strikes were to blame for starting about 9,000 wildfires.
 
Firefighters work around the clock to try to stop the destruction of life and property.  But there’s nothing like knowing how to prevent a fire to save lives and money.  Here are some tips.
 
Building a campfire can be very fun.  But just avoid starting one in very dry campsite conditions.
 
If you have to burn debris, check with the weather conditions and with your local fire department to find out if it’s even allowed. Wind can cause small fires to quickly spread out of control.
 
Also, maintain your outdoor equipment properly.  Things like lawn mowers, chain saws and motorcycles should be fitted with spark arrestors to reduce their risk of starting a fire.
 
And as Smokey Bear has famously been saying for years - Only you can prevent wildfires, but are you really prepared?
 
Let us know. Give us your feedback in the comments below or on Twitter using #JustExplainItNews.
 

Loading...
  • Early Glance: Railroad companies

    Shares of some top railroad companies are mixed at 10 a.m.: CSX rose $.04 or .1 percent, to $34.86. Canadian National Railway Co. rose $.16 or .2 percent, to $68.39. Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. fell ...

  • Today in History

    Today is Friday, Oct. 24, the 297th day of 2014. There are 68 days left in the year.

  • Senate Midterm Elections
    Senate Midterm Elections

    The 2014 midterm elections are just around the corner, and so far forecasts are not indicating blue skies for the Democratic Party. On Nov. 4, it's all about control of the United States Senate. Republicans will maintain control of the U.S. House of Representatives. But after eight years, they could have the majority in both the House and the Senate again.

  • Report: Total CEO's plane almost escaped crash
    Report: Total CEO's plane almost escaped crash

    MOSCOW (AP) — The plane carrying a top French oil executive and a crew of three was already in the air when it grazed a snowplow, just failing to avoid the fatal crash, Russian crash investigators said Thursday.

  • Company fined $25M for work-at-home scheme

    LOS ANGELES (AP) — A California company that promised lucrative returns for a few hours of work at home was fined $25 million on Wednesday for misleading 110,000 people to buy into the scheme that almost never paid off.

  • How the Dow Jones industrial average did Thursday

    The stock market got a boost Thursday from a combination of strong corporate earnings and encouraging economic reports. Caterpillar and 3M were among the companies posting results that impressed investors. ...

  • Amazon Down 10%: The real reason why and how to trade it
    Amazon Down 10%: The real reason why and how to trade it

    Have investors finally had enough of Amazon losing money? If the reaction to yesterday's earnings are any indication the answer is yes!

  • Pistorius shoves race, crime and punishment in South Africa's face
    Pistorius shoves race, crime and punishment in South Africa's face

    By Ed Cropley PRETORIA (Reuters) - As Oscar Pistorius spent his first day behind bars this week, a suspected child rapist and murderer went on trial at the same Pretoria court in a case that has also provoked fierce debate about crime and punishment in post-apartheid South Africa. Although the two defendants, one wealthy and white, the other poor and black, are from opposite ends of a still-divided society, both cases have revealed an alarming lack of faith in the justice system of the "Rainbow Nation". ...

Follow Yahoo! News