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Saturdays with Shavara

Saturdays with Shavara

Wildfires Environmental Impact

Thank you for joining me for another glorious Saturday! I know for many of us this week has been one for the books with worry for friends and family in many regions of the U.S. that are currently being impacted by either raging wildfires out West or pelted down by Hurricane Laura in Louisiana and Texas. These “natural” disasters seem to show up at the absolute worst time, but it did get me thinking about just how “natural” wildfires were, as we know with Hurricanes they form over the ocean, typically beginning as a tropical wave, which is a low pressure area that moves through the moisture-rich tropics, possibly enhancing shower and thunderstorm activity, according to the National Ocean Services Department. Wildfires on the other hand are a different story, because they are not always caused by nature and this got me thinking, and by now you all know when I get to thinking a post is sure to follow. 

I want to first start by explaining that there are three basic elements when it comes to creating a thriving wildfire, which are fuel, oxygen and heat, often referred to as the fire triangle. Think of it like this, scorching hot summer day, peak drought season and something as tiny as littered cigarette butt thrown out of a passing car window waywardly blown into some brush and boom you’ve got the perfect combination for a wildfire. Wildfires can of course be caused by natural sources such as by lightning strikes, or the sun but let’s be honest we all know it’s far more likely to occur by human error such as; campfires carelessly left unextinguished, debris burned improperly or worse actual arson. The fact is roughly 88% of wildfires are actually purposefully started (like when the Amazon was on fire last year) and because of this startling fact the normal fire season which use to be around 50 days has now increased to closer to 150 days costing close to 2 billion in damages and an immeasurable amount of grief, human lives lost, animal lives lost,  and habitats lost as a result.

It is easy to see the immediate effects of wildfires in property damage ash and soot finely coated on nearly everything, but there are many long-term effects on the environmental health of the bodies of water that surround the areas of the wildfires as well. The stormwater runoff from the area is impacted greatly as a result of debris coming from the fires which goes directing into the watershed. The vegetation in the area of a wildfire is lost at such a rapid pace and spans such a massive area that the soil then has a difficult time absorbing water leading debris and sediments to travel into the stormwater with ease. This is especially bad for the environment because the sediment from wildfires usually contains heavy metals. The other giant issue at hand is the impact on air quality as we have all closely watch the more than 90 fires that have burned across California this summer one of the biggest issues has been the poor air quality that these fires cause for not only the state of California, but for many other Western states. On a normal day poor air quality impacts particular groups more than others according to the EPA such as; People with heart or lung diseases, people with diabetes, older adults, children less than 18 years old, but when wildfires rage on for weeks on end nearly everyone is impacted by this level of poor air quality some far more than others.

The toll of wildfires is a large and although wildfires can be categorized as a natural disaster the truth is statistically speaking it is far more likely that a wildfire is cause by human error than by nature. According to the Congressional Research Service; Most wildfires are human caused (88% on average from 2015 to 2019), although the wildfires caused by lightning tend to be slightly larger and burn more average (55% of the average burned from 2015 to 2019 were ignited by lightning). We have a responsibility to our planet to act with more compassion and know that our actions are tied to greater environmental consequences. Something as simple as the open burning of debris or littering a cigarette butt can have astronomical effects for many people, animals and habitats when it results in starting a wildfire. When we know better, we should do better, and this is where I’ll leave you folks! As always Reduce, Reuse, Recycle often and responsibly. 

KOB’s Very own Content Writer,

Shavara J.




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