Firefighter on the Soberanes Fire, Sept 2016. Photo: Monterey County Herald.
Humans are taking the blame for 84% of all wildfires, a tripling in the length of fire season and almost half of all the area burned. In a report recently published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers daylight the fundamental role of human ignitions. The team analyzed 1.5 million fires from federal, state and local wildfire records from 1992 through 2012 to find that the human-caused fire season was three times longer than the lightning-caused fire season and added an average of 40,000 wildfires per year across the United States.
The authors demonstrate the remarkable influence that humans have on modern US wildfire. Although considerable fire research has rightly focused on increased fire activity (e.g., larger fires and more area burned) because of climate change, they demonstrate that the expanded fire niche as a result of human-related ignitions is equally profound. They hope this research will spur action to not only raise awareness of the issue but increase management in regions more prone to human-caused wildfire; and that these should be a focus of United States policy to reduce fire risk and associated hazards. Read full article here.