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Every year, all over the world, wildfires destroy many different landscapes. In the United States alone, wildfires burn an average of 5 million acres per year, which is 5 times the size of Rhode Island, or 137,544 football fields. That’s a tremendous amount of area that gets burned every year, and unfortunately the main reason for these fires are humans.

Although many types of fires occur each year, there are certain characteristics that a wildfire needs, to classify it as such. The main characteristic is that it happens outdoors in areas such as grasslands, woodlands, brushlands and other areas where the materials within the environment are more combustible and act as a fuel allowing the fire to grow.

The “un-natural” or generally man made wildfires are due to campfires that get out of control or not put out properly. Other man made causes include cigarette butts, fireworks, sparks from equipment and sadly, arson. When these fires are ignited in dry areas, they can spread very quickly. With enough wind and flammable brush, wildfires can reach speeds of 14mph. At that speed, fires are difficult to put out. Some of the natural ways that wildfires occur are from lightning, sparks created from rocks falling on top of one another, volcanic eruption and even spontaneous combustion. In some cases, fires can help trees, for example heat from fire helps the lodgepole pine to release it’s seeds. Fire also kills disease and other insects that can be harmful to plants. Although in some cases, fire benefits certain vegetation, it is important to remember all the “un-natural,” man made wildfires and the destruction they cause.

Although some of the wildfires that occur each year are inevitable, there are ways to prevent fires and be more careful when you are in vulnerable areas. Below are some of the best ways to prevent wildfires:

-The second you see an unattended fire or if a fire you started gets out of control, immediately call 911.

-When putting out a fire, pour water over it. Mix the ashes around and then pour more water. Often times, there are very hot ashes at the bottom of the fire pit so make sure to douse the pit a few times. Do this before sleeping or leaving the campsite.

-Take extra caution when using fueling lanterns, stoves, heaters, generators or any gas powered equipment.

-Never toss cigarette butts on the ground, or out of a moving vehicle. Make sure the butts are completely extinguished before putting them in the trash.

As you can see, wildfires can be ignited by the smallest spark, or unattended campfire. If we all took just a little more precaution when we are in areas that are more susceptible to wildfire, we could lessen the amount of damage they cause every year.

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