Although scientists have confirmed that climate change is at play when it comes to the increased risk of wildfires, estimates say that nine out of 10 wildfires are sparked by humans.
Record breaking temperatures, due to the climate crisis, have caused severe drought conditions in many areas of the world, from North America to Europe. These conditions are optimal for wildfires. As global temperatures increase, wildfires become more frequent and more severe.
While combating the climate crisis is important to prevent these fires from worsening, there are also ways that you can directly help prevent wildfires according to official sources.
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) advises first and foremost that before you engage with any activities that involve fire or sparks, check local weather and drought conditions. Check especially when it is hot, dry and windy and if the conditions are not right, look to use non-flammable options, or save your activity for another day when conditions are safer.
The department states that “conditions and local restrictions should guide your decision for any fire-related activity such as building a campfire, operating equipment, off-roading on dry grass, or burning debris.”
Human activities that can cause wildfires include but are not limited to smoking, fireworks, campfires, barbeques, accidental ignitions, sparks from equipment and railroads, and obviously, intentional arson. According to Science Magazine, “human-sparked fires typically spread about 1.83 kilometers per day, more than twice as fast as the 0.83 kilometers per day for lightning-induced burns.”
If you have checked conditions and are proceeding with activities involving fire or sparks, be sure to follow some safety protocols to prevent an accidental fire from occurring. If you are building a campfire, be sure to build it in a flat, open location which is away from flammable materials – such as logs, leaves and so forth. When building the campfire, clear away grass leaves and needles, leaving only the soil to build on.
Only start a bonfire, campfire, and so forth in an appropriate fire pit. Cut wood in short lengths and keep it in the cleared area, before you start the fire. Once you have lit the fire, never leave it unattended and completely extinguish it before you leave.
To completely extinguish the campfire, douse it with one bucket of water, stir it, and then douse it again with another bucket of water. Before you leave the campfire, it should be cold to the touch.
If you smoke, do not discard any cigarettes, matches or smoking material on flammable land – this includes park grounds and forests. Do not discard them out of moving vehicles, and ensure cigarettes are completely extinguished before disposing of them.
National Geographic states that you should follow local ordinances when burning yard waste. “Avoid backyard burning in windy conditions, and keep a shovel, water, and fire retardant nearby to keep fires in check. Remove all flammables from the yard when burning.”
When working with camp equipment that requires fuel, take care to store fuel away from appliances, only refuel when the appliance is cool and avoid spilling flammable liquids. Follow the safety procedures when using such equipment.
For machinery, aim to keep sparks away from dry vegetation. Keep equipment such as chainsaws well maintained. Same goes for vehicles, but additionally, keep them off of dry grass. The DOI says to remember that exhausts can reach temperatures of 1,000+ degrees when off-roading.
If you notice an unattended fire or an out of control fire, call 911, your local fire department, or park services. If you are unsure of the proper protocols for fire safety and preventing fires for any activity, check with your local fire department or official fire prevention resources.
If you live in an area where wildfires are common, Red Cross has also provided tips on maintaining your home to reduce the chances of a small fire becoming a wildfire, or preventing an unintentional fire from growing. They advise various methods to follow, such as choosing fire-resistant plants, creating empty spaces between shrubs and trees, mowing grassy areas regularly, removing dead and dry plants — along with fallen leaves and pine cones — and pruning trees above the height of shrubs and bushes.