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The Harmful Effects of Wildfires in the US

84% of Wildfires Started by Human Carelessness or Arson

Wildfires have always been devastating, but where once they were considered to be a natural occurrence, they are nowadays increasingly thought of as man made. These fires once had a season usually of 46 days, but this has now tripled to 154. Apart from the tragic impact on local residents and wildlife, they cause an annual financial loss of $2 billion.

The Harmful Effects of Wildfires in the US

Wild fires need the presence of three elements for combustion to occur: Fuel, heat and oxygen, often called the 'fire triangle' by firefighters and fire prevention professionals. Extreme heat creates drought conditions and just a single spark is enough to cause major chaos. It's a sad fact that even though some of these fires can start as a result of lightening or the sun's rays, the majority come down to careless or malicious humans. 84% of these wildfires are started by unextinguished camp fires, improperly burned rubbish, lit cigarette butts or arson.

Long Term Negative Effects of Wildfires on Plant & Animal Life

The negative effects of these catastrophic events are long term as well as immediate, affecting the quality of lakes, rivers and streams. Stormwater runoff brings massive degradation to the land, as the ground is unable to absorb water due to loss of vegetation. The hydrophobic nature of the soil allows debris and sediment to easily travel into larger  bodies of water. This means essential resources are polluted, exacerbated by flash floods, as heavy metals enter waterways. Rivers etc can be filtered but these are expensive and long drawn out processes.

These events take a huge toll on plant life in the vicinity and surroundings too, even more so in the warmer months when everything is bone dry. Even where taller trees survive the flames, smaller trees and ground foliage are destroyed. The survival of any animals is threatened as their food sources and homes are consumed. Even plants that are damaged but not killed, are vulnerable to disease, insects and fungus if they've been burned.

Toxic Fumes & Dangerous Materials Released into the Air

Drastically reduced air quality is yet another short and long term consequence of a wildfire, as rising smoke can travel extreme distances. The smoke particles can lodge deep down into the lungs, interfering with breathing and placing undue stress on the heart. In addition, the fires produce carbon monoxide which is also detrimental to human health. As homes and other structures burn, dangerous materials may be exposed, creating a hazardous environment for everyone. Some older buildings built before the1970s, could contain asbestos, an extremely dangerous mineral fibre. If inhaled, asbestos can lead to the condition pleural mesothelioma, a type of often fatal lung cancer.

Natural wildfires can have some positive aspects however, such as killing off detrimental diseases and insects which have become pests. Some plants are designed to spread their seeds through being burned. Low grade fires can clean up the forest floor, decreasing the chance of bigger fires taking hold.

Environmentally Friendly Fire Fighting Solutions

ABC Macintosh manufacture an exceptionally eco-friendly solution with their range of fire extinction chemicals. Chemicals which are highly effective at successfully controlling the most substantial forest fires and other types of fire, while remaining kind to the environment. These innovative, high performance products are cost effective and used internationally. Our outstanding range of fire fighting foams and powders, safely and efficiently deal with most fire hazards. One of the secrets of our success include fluorosurfactant free foams and accurate foam delivery systems. These can deliver between 0.1 and 6% foam concentrate, the addition of which boosts the impact of water alone.

British Nuclear Fuels have adopted use of these excellent products, and many other petrochemical, general chemical and nuclear industries are making changes. They are interested in more sustainable options as opposed to the traditional AFFF and AFFF-AR.

Prevention is the Key

The key to limiting these devastating fires is prevention!

  • Always ensure that a camp fire is properly extinguished before leaving or sleeping.
  • Don't discard cigarettes carelessly, and take care when using flammable liquids, or anything combustible.
  • If you intend to have a camp fire or similar, always have handy water, a shovel or fire retardant.
  • Contact the fire dept and authorities if you see an unattended or out-of-control fire.
  • Make sure you know what to do in the event of a fire and have a kit of emergency supplies ready.
  • If leaving your house, check all windows, vents¬†and doors are closed, and remove all combustibles from your yard.

Visit the International Association of Wildland Fire for more information on prevention of wildfires.


The Harmful Effects of Wildfires in the US, 84% of Wildfires Started by Human Carelessness or Arson. Long Term Negative Effects of Wildfires on Plant & Animal Life.Toxic Fumes & Dangerous Materials Released into the Air, Prevention is the Key

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