5 Incredible Facts About Wildfires You Definitely Didn't Know
As we come to the end of October, we are (hopefully) coming toward the end of wildfire season. It has been one of the most active seasons of the past decade. The National Interagency Fire Center has reported that the number of acres burned by wildfires has been 112% above the average for the past 10 years. Specifically, there have been over 28,000 wildfires which burned 1.9 million acres so far this year. Given the increased frequency and impact of wildfires globally, we thought it would be great to do some research and share some little known facts with you.
1) 38 states are wildfire risk states
Certain states have been highlighted publicly as high risk regions for wildfires. However, we learned that a total of 38 states are categorized as wildfire risk states by the Verisk Wildfire Risk Analysis. This means that 76% of the states in the nation were identified at high or extreme risk of wildfire. For example, in California there are over 2 million properties located within high risk areas and 29% of all the properties in the state are considered to be in areas prone to this natural disaster. While California does contain the highest number of properties in high risk areas, there are over 2.5 million homes in other states which face the risk of burning.
These were the states with the highest risk of wildfire in 2021:
2) Prescribed burns are an important tool which is used to different degrees across America
An important tool that forest management teams use are prescribed burns. For thousands of years, woodlands experienced regular burning either sparked by lightning or by Native American tribes, with the aim of preventing the accumulation of flammable material on the forest floor. Without these intentional fires, the landscape is increasingly prone to devastating wildfires. A 2018 report by the Little Hoover Commission, an independent state oversight agency, recommended cleaning out 1.1 million acres a year. This effort would take two decades, and require substantial financial and human investment.
This year we have seen how Western states are contending with increasingly catastrophic wildfires and many experts are looking to emulate the wildfire management techniques of other states in the nation, namely through the tool of prescribed burning. We learned that from 1998 to 2018, 70% of all controlled burning in the country was performed in the Southeast. Lenya Quinn-Davidson, a fire adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension said "We have this generational gap in fire knowledge in the Western U.S. that we're trying to rebuild now, but Florida and the Southeast still have it"
The American Red Cross highlighted the increased risk of wildfires across the country given the effect of higher temperatures, lower rainfall and dry vegetation this year. Despite the fact that there are many variables that cause and intensify wildfires, it is interesting to see how this issue is tackled in different ways across the United States. With certain states more actively using tools like prescribed burning and others focusing on a different set of management strategies.
3) There is a fire-resistant beetle which just signed a contract for the next Marvel movie
Wildfires can clear out woodland biodiversity and make it hard for fauna to exist in the aftermath of the burning. However, we learned of a beetle that could be featured in the next Marvel film. It is none other than the Melanophila acuminata, otherwise known as the black fire beetle. This insect has the ability to use specialized infrared radiation sensors to detect the flames. Once they find a warm, cozy fire they proceed to mate and lay eggs in the scorched trees. These ashy trees are ideal for the beetle because they no longer contain defense mechanisms like sap to prevent insects from digging into the bark. If the trees are weak, this burrowing leads to the destruction of internal systems that regulate their sap and water production as well as distribution. Definitely not a win-win situation.
But we didn’t just want to highlight the peculiar mating habits of this super beetle, we also learned that the US Department of Defense has been studying this beetle for years. Specifically, they have been conducting tests to improve military technology by understanding the beetle’s infrared sensors. They have been using this knowledge to improve their own heat-seeking missiles and the defense systems for said missiles.
Crazy to think there are some military scientists studying this insect all day in the hope of using nature’s technology to improve our own.
4) Wildfires have burned more than 990 million acres globally in 2022
At Buzz we wanted to focus not only on the effect of wildfires in the United States, but also the effect around the world. By October 3, 2022, nearly 54,200 wildfires had impacted about 6.9 million acres throughout the United States. Moreover, the global effect of wildfires amounted to a total of 990 million acres burned in 2022 (European Space Observation Agency).
We have been expanding our global scope and the industries we serve at Buzz Solutions to serve our customers wherever they may be. It was interesting to learn the effect of wildfires on an international scale as well as how faulty infrastructure maintenance adds to the issue. So, our vision is to continue expanding and help in the ways that we can.
5) Wildfire season lasts 76 days longer in 2022 than it did 50 years ago
This year we saw how the wildfire season was extended by variables like temperature, rainfall and also dry vegetation. However, at Buzz we wanted to know specifically how much worse wildfires have been in comparison to seasons in past years. What we found was quite concerning.
According to George Washington University wildfires are “longer, fiercer, and more costly to contain”. These fires have burned an average of 7 million acres every year since 2000, which is equivalent to burning Yellowstone National Park three times every year. It’s pretty bad. On the other hand, from 1960 to 1999, wildfires burned 3.5 million acres - half of what we are currently experiencing.
We also found out that wildfire seasons in the US now last an average of 76 days longer than in the 70s and 80s. Also, these same fires used to be contained in 8 days whereas they now take an average of 37 days to be extinguished.