Recently, wildfire season has gotten progressively worse every year. Why is that? What are the circumstances that create these terrible conditions, setting up for the worst, deadliest wildfires year after year? There are several causes. Before we get to that…
Welcome to the inaugural post of the Blackjack Industrial Blog! We’ve been hard at work, developing the most robust, Double Down Clips to protect and serve our customers, from construction workers to firefighters, miners, truckers, or first responders. But our clips are not the only way we want to serve our community. We plan on using our blog as a resource for anyone working in a hard hat industry. So let’s get back to it. Just why are the wildfire seasons getting so much worse?
Wildfire Season Worsening With Climate Change
Anyone can tell you, the wildfire season is getting worse every year. TIME had an article about just how bad California’s experience is. At the end of July, there were almost 150 blazes across the United States, with over 25,000 firefighters committed to the Herculean task of protecting us from these fires. Wildfires fires are burning faster, further, lasting longer, and firefighter crews are having harder and harder times fighting back.
One of the critical causes is rising temperatures. Go figure – the hotter it gets, the worse the fires blaze. . Increased temperature dries out the vegetations to dangerous levels. Regardless of prior precipitation, an abnormally hot summer can dry out (or outright kill) vegetation, creating ample fuel for a potential fire.
While high temperatures drying out vegetation is one factor contributing to worsesning wildfire seasons, another is that the temperatures simply stay high. As part of the natural cycle of the day, forest temperatures drop during the evening after the sun sets. With cooler temps, firefighters can get closer to the flames to fight them more directly. Higher daytime temperatures are now creating higher nighttime temperatures, which makes this strategy more difficult. With the temperatures reaching higher and higher and staying elevated longer, we are put between a rock and a hard place. Fires are stronger, and the critical window of time used to fight them has become shorter.
Temperatures aren’t the only cause for worsening wildfire seasons. As urban development continues to expand, new portions of land are left vulnerable to wildfires. Where a blaze might have once ripped through a hillside of brush, it now will tear through a subdivision, destroying homes and taking unfortunate lives.
In many ways, human contributions to worsening wildfires are nothing new. Experts tracking such details, referring to things like tree ring sizes and fire rings, have seen that the history of fires in North America was much different than the devastating pattern of season wildfires we experience now.
Before European colonization of the continent, wildfires were frequent but much smaller in scale. Forests had natural cycles of fires, clearing growth and underbrush at reliable paces, but never raging to the point of total devastation. They would start small and rarely find enough fuel to get up enough to burn through large swaths of the countryside, instead simply clearing away underbrush. The next time the brush was grown back, fires would reoccur naturally, but larger trees would survive.
As Europeans spread out across the country, large swaths of natural land were converted to use for livestock grazing. This lowered the frequencies of minor wildfires. The fires that did occur were put out before they burnt through naturally occurring underbrush. Now, excess underbrush provides wildfires with enough fuel that they spread at unprecedented rates, and with unprecedented fury.
Wildfires in the Future?
It isn’t all doom and gloom out there. The fires we are experiencing are worse than previous years, making the data from prior experiences less reliable. As more years like this occur, we learn more about these large class of wildfires and become better at combating them. With more experience, our firefighters will get better and better at managing and fighting back these blazes.
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