September 7, 2011

Wildfires are forces of nature like hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes. But unlike most other natural disasters, wildfires can sometimes be prevented or at least controlled more easily. Strangely, fire fighters sometime start fires instead of putting them out. Using a fire starter called a drip torch, fire fighters set small blazes on purpose. These small fires help to control fires already burning or prevent large wildfires from starting by burning away undergrowth and dead wood in the path of a raging fire.

For many years, fire fighters put out natural fires as quickly as possible. But the more that fuel on a forest floor or a dry grassland builds up, the worse a wildfire is going to be. Lack of rain and intense days of high temperatures also contribute to wildfires. That’s what is happening in parts of Texas and California right now. It will take lower temperatures and plentiful rains to finally control these huge blazes.

In the future though, preventative fires need to be put to use before a wildfire even starts. Most scientists say that wildfires are part of nature. The only question is when they will happen and how we deal with them. In areas with people and houses, wildfires have to be brought under control as quickly as possible. But in wilderness areas, wildfires are different. Allowing small fires to burn naturally may be one way to prevent tragedies where human lives are lost and houses burned out. Some states such as Florida burn many acres of grassland in the everglades each year to prevent out-of-control future wildfires. 

Photograph from Seymour Simon’s book WILDFIRES.


Posted by: Seymour Simon

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