Background on Wildfires

A wildfire is an uncontrolled fire in a wildland area, which can get out of hand and consume houses and farmlands as well.

They can start in many ways, both natural and artificial. And they can be very difficult to put out once they've been ignited. Wildfires often occur in heavily forested areas that have long, extended periods of dryness.

It used to be U.S. policy to try to prevent and suppress all wildfires. However, after many years, scientists realized that fire is a natural part of the growth cycle for many plants. In fact, some plants and trees are considered fire-dependent, meaning that they cannot survive and reproduce without somewhat regular fires.

However, fires can still be extremely dangerous to humans (especially for those that live in natural wildlands). Many wildfires occur every year, many of them not naturally caused.

In fact, an average of 1.2 million acres of U.S. woodland burn every year and more than four out of every five wildfires are caused by people.

The U.S. Fire Administration reported that in 2010 alone, 71,839 wildfires took place and 3.42 million acres were burned.

While some fires are important for new growth in many types of forests, we must try to limit the frequency of these fires. Fires at intervals that are too short, i.e. less than every five years, can be devastating to certain species, even if they are considered fire-dependent.

In addition, wildfires can put humans and their property at great risk, if they get out of hand and spread too quickly. Some scientists worry that the risk of wildfires will just continue to grow as global warming gets worse and the natural seasons are altered.

Check out our Action Guides for ideas on how to do something about this issue. GO

Wildfire Threats to the California Flora