Humans Are the Leading Cause of Wildfires in U.S.

Humans start 8 out of 10 forest fires leading to increased damage from fires nationwide.

As reported by Christopher Joyce of NPR:

Wildfires can start when lightning strikes or when someone fails to put out a campfire. New research shows that people start a lot more fires than lightning does — so much so that people are drastically altering wildfire in America.

Fire ecologist Melissa Forder says about 60 percent of fires in national parks are caused by humans: “intentionally set fires, buildings burning and spreading into the forest, smoking, equipment malfunctions and campfires.” But the average for all forests is even higher. Thelatest researchshows that nationwide, humans cause more than 8 in 10 — 84 percent.

“We are playing a really substantial role in shifting fire around,” says fire ecologist Jennifer Balch at the University of Colorado. Balch looked at the big picture, going through records of 1.5 million wildfires over a 21-year period. She says people are starting fires where and when nature normally doesn’t — at times when forests are often too wet to burn easily or at places and times when lightning isn’t common.

Read more about human effects on wildfire from NPR.

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