What Causes Wildfires

Wildfires are fires that happen in wooded areas and can start from lightning or from people who do not carefully handle flames. Winds, dry plants and leaves on the ground can spread a fire very quickly.

One type of wind phenomenon that spreads wildfires easily is called the Santa Ana winds. These strong, hot winds typically blow through the mountain passes in southern California. Santa Ana winds can easily exceed 40 miles per hour, are warm and dry and can quickly make wildfires spread, especially under drought conditions.

There are many ways you can help prevent wildfires. When you are camping, make sure your fire is built in a location where it can be easily contained, away from loose brush or other items that could easily catch fire and spread the flames. Make sure that you are never far away from the fire once it is lit, and always have water on hand. Don’t burn on windy days! Before leaving the fire, pour water over the ashes, even if it already looks like it is out. All it takes is one ember catching nearby brush or grass on fire to start a wildfire.

Did you know that wildfires can also harm you in multiple ways? Smoke from the wildfires can hurt your eyes, irritate your respiratory system and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases. When smoke is impacting your area, make sure to keep your doors and windows closed and turn off your air conditioner.
If you spot a wildfire, you should walk or drive away from the fire immediately and call 911 to report it. Weather conditions and the type of ground cover can make the fire change direction quickly, so it is important to stay far away from the fire. If you live in an area that is near woods, it is important to have a plan of action and emergency supplies in case a fire starts, and to always listen to officials when a wildfire is happening in your area.

To learn more about fire forecasts and wildfire safety and prevention, check out the NWS Wildfire Safety Page. Also, visit Firewise Communities to learn all about all of the risks of wildfires and how to be prepared for a wildfire.

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