The forest fires that blazed across the western states this summer were devastating. Residents were displaced from their homes, beloved landscapes were scorched, and people in surrounding regions were forced to breathe smoke and ash from the flames.
It’s hard to look at the bright side when all of that is going on. Here in Oregon (where The Dyrt calls home) we’re all very grateful to see the Eagle Creek fire is now about 50% contained, thanks to the hard work of about 1,000 fire fighters.
But it’s reassuring to know that there are benefits to forest fires, too.
We thought it would be interesting to learn more about the many sides of forest fires, including the dangers and the benefits.
Here are 13 Facts about Forest Fires That Might Surprise You
1. Fire is part of the natural cycle of many ecosystems.
2. About 100 cloud-to-ground lightning bolts touch the Earth every single second, and about 24,600 fires are started by lightning each year.
3. Approximately 4 in 5 forest fires are started by humans.
4. Naturally occurring forest and intentional controlled fires help prevent larger fires by clearing away underbrush that easily burns.
5. A “crown fire” is one that burns quickly across the tops of trees.
6. Surface fires burn dead leaves and brush, making more room for animals like moose and deer to pass through.
7. Fires move faster when traveling uphill.
8. A fire tornado can form when winds around a fire begin to spin.
9. While some animals are displaced by forest fires, burned clearings can become perfect homes for species that benefit from sunlight and nutrient-rich soil.
10. A large enough fire can produce its own weather system.
11. On average, 1.2 billion acres of forest burn in the United States each year.
12. National parks with approved fire maintenance plans assess each and every fire to decide whether or not it should be suppressed.
13. Lodgepole pine trees love forest fires. The extreme temperatures allow them to release seeds from their otherwise tightly sealed cones.
It’s important to understand the benefits of forest fires, but it’s also important for all of us to do our part to prevent man-made fires. As campers, we have a special responsibility to the forests we love. Always thoroughly distinguish your camp fires, and respect fire bans during the drier months. Smokey The Bear has a whole page dedicated to advice for helping campers prevent forest fires.