Wildfires are a growing natural hazard throughout many regions in the United States posing a threat to life and property. This year, on June 20th, wildfires increased significantly when severe thunderstorms passed over Northern California igniting 1,300 fires. Wildfire activity currently remains heavy in California and the Southern States. As of today, there are currently 72 active fires with the most being in California (24). 557,023 acres of land are being affected by these fires.
Did you know that an average of 1.2 million acres of US woodland burn every year from fires? Human carelessness is often the cause of wildfires, but certain weather conditions are also a major cause.
The most common weather causes are dry thunderstorms on a drought striken area, heat waves, winds, and pyroclastic clouds from active volcanoes. Wildfires are common in much of the world where climates are moist enough to grow trees, but feature dry hot periods that allow vegetation to dry up and become flammable. Fires tend to happen in the summer during drought or heat waves and in the fall during times of wind.
The aftermath of wildfires can be disastrous. Trees and plants prevent erosion. When it rains, after fire has destroyed all vegetation, landslides and flash floods can occur. These can often be more disastrous than the fire itself.
Below are some wildfire terms you might be familiar with:
Surface Fire - The most common type. It runs along the forest floor and slowly burns vegetation in it's path.
Ground Fire - Usually started by lightning and burns vegetation on or below the forest floor through roots.
Crown Fire - Spread by wind by moving quickly from treetop to treetop.
Santa Ana Winds - These winds occur during the fall and winter over Southern California. They are very dry and warm winds that downslope off the mountains. They can gust up to 100 mph, quickly spreading wildfires.
Dry Thunderstorms - The rain evaporates before it reaches the ground because lower levels of the atmosphere are too dry.