As we once again watch large fires break out in California, fires of a magnitude are difficult to comprehend, yet they have my office thinking about what is ahead of us in a couple of months.
As we once again watch large fires break out in California, fires of a magnitude are difficult to comprehend, yet they have my office thinking about what is ahead of us in a couple of months. Are there causes that are evident with what is transpiring in California that we should take note in Central Missouri? If so is there reason for concern with the upcoming fall season around the corner? I guess if we could predict the future we would be a wealthy individuals, but since area fire officials have yet to acquire that unique talent we can only look at indicators and possibilities then plan for the unknown.
I understand that Central Missouri and California are completely different in almost all aspects of weather, terrain, population, and urban interface. However some of the underlying factors can be applied in each of these locations as we determine the risk that we may face. While wildfires origins, path, intensity, and thus destruction would be impossible to outline in a single article, I think there are some “common” issues with all of these fires that can be addressed; Cause and Conditions.
So today lets exam the most obvious common issue that being the cause of wildfires. Many times when local fire districts issue burn bans or burn warnings it is determined by weather conditions. However let’s not confuse conditions such as lack of rain, high winds, and low humidity as causes for these fires. In most cases while weather adds to the danger of the fires intensity, weather is not the cause of a fire. The time where weather could be listed as cause or in cases of lightning strikes in which the strike sparks the dry vegetation to ignite. One may ask about wind related incidents such as downed powerlines; however this gets into the most prevalent cause of wildfires, human.
Humans are almost always the primary cause of wildfires in any part of the country. A study was conducted in California looking at the cause of their fires over the past century indicated that in California humans were solely responsible for the ignition of wildfires. This find is one that I would have to question but I would support the large majority would be caused by humans.
I feel the need to clarify, I am not saying that every wildfire we see in this area is arson, arson is defined by willful or malicious intent. However intent aside the large majority of fires we run are not from lighting strikes they are mostly caused by; smoking, leaving control burns unattended, assuming a control burn is contained or extinguished, lawnmowers/tractors.
So as we look at what is happening in California I think cause can be common link between us. Does this answer the question, are we going to see an active fall fire season, no it doesn’t. So if cause is not a factor in this determination then we need to look at conditions to help us plan. Next week we will take an in-depth look at conditions and how that plays a role in predicting our wildfire season.