Wildfires occur unexpectantly everywhere in the world. They can happen anywhere and at anytime. Wildfires are “unplanned fires” that burn in a natural area such as “forests, grasslands, or prairies.” Some are man-made, but most occur naturally from lightning strikes. I was involved in one of the Mesa Verde wildfires and watched as a gigantic fireball threatened our escape as it rapidly jumped from tree to tree. Historically speaking, 95 percent of the wildfires in Mesa Verde, Colorado are caused by lightning. Humans cause 5 percent. Wildfire is devastating and burns hundreds of thousands of acres of valuable timberland, destroys homes, and kills people and wildlife. Seventy percent of this park has been burned since it opened in 1906.
California is notorious for its wildfire activity. California wildfires are fueled by dense undergrowth, dry conditions, and high winds. Heavy rains produce vegetation that provides dry fuel for the fires later in the year according to climatologists. There are still eight wildfires burning in California at the time of this writing. Wildfires are responsible for mass evacuations and blackouts. As of December, 2019, 7,860 wildfires in California have burned 259,823 acres of land according to Cal Fire and the U. S. Forest Service. California with its record of 8,194 wildfires ranks No. 1.
The 2020 fires in Australia have had a devastating effect on the wildlife. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that 1.25 billion animals have died as a result of these fires. Thirty per cent of the Koala population have died which will hasten the possibility of their extinction. Thousands of kangaroos and wallabies, together with other animals and birds were destroyed. Twenty-six people died, and 2,000 homes were destroyed. An area twice the size of the state of Maryland was scorched and burned.
If you find yourself under a wildfire warning, get to safety immediately. If you are told to evacuate, leave as soon as possible. If trapped, call 911. If you have N95 masks available, use them to avoid inhaling smoke and ashes. Listen for emergency alerts and warnings from officials. Follow the guidelines of the Environmental Protection Agency and the U. S. Forest Service. Above all, be ready by planning ahead!