North American Wildfires – Causes and Prevention

California Fires Kill Forests Yearly – Are Humans to Blame?

With recurring wildfires in California, Florida, and Western Canada killing miles of forest, questions surrounding their causation inevitably emerge. Are humans to blame?

In the immortal words of Smokey the Bear, “Only you can prevent forest fires.” With yet another wildfire wreaking havoc near the suburbs of Los Angeles, California, perhaps people should start listening to Smokey.

According to Associated Press journalists Jacob Adelman and Raquel Maria Dillon, humans caused the blaze that as of September 2, , had ravaged 219 square miles (140,150 acres) of Angeles National Park in eight days. In their article, “LA Fire Human-Caused, Official Says,” Adelman and Dillon cite Deputy Incident Commander Carlton Joseph for the fault determination. Joseph notes that humans may cause wildfires in various ways, ranging from a dropped cigarette to a spark from a lawnmower. However, it is not yet known whether the initial spark was accidental or intentional.

What carelessness or maliciousness would cause someone to instigate such massive destruction – to leave hordes of wildlife dead or homeless, to lay waste to acres upon acres of natural resources, and to place many firefighters in deadly peril? If truly an act of negligence, what can humans do to prevent or limit wildfires?

Wildfires Destroy Forests Across the United States and Canada

Wildfires are no strangers to California. Before summer’s end in 2009, approximately 200,000 acres of forest had fallen victim to fire per the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention. There were more than 20 wildfires from January–August. The majority and most powerful wildfires occurred in late summer. Autumn threatens to bring several more.

And 2009 is no anomaly. Per the Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention, California’s 20 biggest fires (with regard to acreage destroyed) range from 1932–2009 and have cremated approximately 3 million acres. Of these fires, six have been human-caused (one from arson), two have unknown causes, and the rest were caused by power lines or lightning.

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