Wilderness is currently ravaging through California, with thousands of people forced to flee from their homes and dozens of residents…
Wilderness is currently ravaging through California, with thousands of people forced to flee from their homes and dozens of residents killed. Earlier this year, a series of fires in the Greek coast killed 99 people in the deadliest firefire worldwide since 2009. In July 2018, smoke fired in Russia as far as in North America. This is a new normal.
But as fires multiply around the world, so ask questions about them – and misconceptions. Here are five common myths about wild fires – some of them can undermine our success to fight them.
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Myth # 1
: Regular forest forest prevents wildfires
A common assumption is to log or remove any trees that would prevent fires. In fact, many forest experts say logging is ineffective. This is because, after logging, stumps and branches leave the wood to provide a superfuel for fire – one that is even drier (and more flammable) in the absence of a wood beam.
There are plenty of science behind these statements. For example, a new study showed that burns tended to be higher in areas with higher levels of management. Researchers who work with fire protection also contest arguments that log protects threatened species from forest fires, a common argument for the removal of trees. In fact, it seems that animals like the iconic dotted owl still benefit from a burnt forest and that the removal of the trees can harm them.
Another practice is to clear entire areas of a forest, a common method used by firefighters to prevent the spread of fire.
Myth # 2: There is nothing you can do to protect your property
Wildfires are powerful and threatening, but households can reduce their risk by taking action at home. The building itself should be the first concern. Houses with refractory ceilings have a better chance of surviving a fire. The owners should also remove combustible materials from around the structure, including leaves in the gutters and roof lines.
Families can create a “defensive zone” between their homes and surrounding wilderness. This means cleaning everything that can take fire, such as brushes, dried leaves and wood traces within 30 meters (9m) structures. When they are 30-100 meters from homes, trees should have large distances between canopies – 12 feet (3.6m) space between peaks that are between 30-60ft (9-18m) from a home and 6 feet (1.8m) space for peaks 60 feet (18 m) away.
Myth # 3: Forest fires are an inevitable fact of nature
Although fires are a natural phenomenon, the extent and intensity they are happening now is not – and one of the effects of climate change.
We saw fewer fires between 1930 and 1980, a period that coincided with cooler and humid conditions. But since the climate has become warmer and drier over the past four decades, the number of fires has increased. In just two years between 1980 and 1999, wild fires burned more than 6 million hectares (2.4m acres) of the United States wilderness. But between 2000 and 2017 there were 10 years of burned area above this threshold.
Globally, the length of the fireplace increased by almost 19% between 1978 and 2013.
While you can not point to climate change that causes a certain fire, it affects factors that help kick and spread fires like big drought , high temperatures, low humidity and high winds. As a result, researchers say that the increase of fires around the world, from Siberia to Portugal, is linked to climate change.
Myth # 4: All fires are bad and must be extinguished immediately.
] Forest fires have played a decisive role in ecosystems over the millennium and life has evolved next to them: some beers only feed up in the heat of the fire , pine cones germinate with periodic fires and cleansed space from burnt trees allow new plants to spring.
In fact, the benefits that many people now hope to achieve with logging or forest management – clearing of dense forests – are naturally made of forest fires. The flames consume periodically smaller branches and trees that kill the forest, which otherwise would otherwise act as fuel.
By fighting wildfields relentlessly over the last century, we have prevented this “cleansing”: less than 1% of US fires may burn. This strategy works better when there are fewer fires – but in our current extreme conditions, pumping more money to fight fires can have a declining rate of return.
Myth # 5: It is possible to eradicate (or control) all forest fires
As we have already seen, climate change, together with other factors such as the proliferation of human settlements, is expected to increase wild fires, especially in the middle to high latitudes, over the next decades. The tropics can see a decrease in fires, which may be a relief for countries approaching the equator. But the rest of the world would have to deal with an increasing number of them.
Some fires, like California’s Camp Fire, are too fast to handle. Evacuation and relocation are the only reasonable answers. This leads to the question of whether communities such as paradise, which were almost destroyed by fire, should stay where they are – or move elsewhere.
Some experts require returning to traditional domestic fire knowledge to handle the flames. Since efforts to burn fires seem insufficient – and as fires are likely to get worse – there are issues that politicians need to face.
Diego Arguedas Ortiz is a BBC Future science and climate change reporter. He is @arguedasortiz on Twitter.
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