USA – The heat wave hitting the northwestern U.S. and Canada has been shattering records, with temperatures 30 degrees Fahrenheit or more above normal. With drought already gripping the West, the intense heat has helped suck even more moisture from millions of acres of forests and grasslands, bringing dead vegetation in many regions to record-dry levels and elevating the fire danger to its highest categories.
With this combination of extreme drought, heat and dry vegetation, all it takes is a spark to ignite a wildfire.
With this year’s tinder-dry grasslands and parched forests, sparks from anything – a cigarette, a campfire, a power line, even a mower blade hitting a rock – could ignite a wildfire, with deadly consequences.
When asked “What can we do?” many of our suggestions require long-term investments and political will. But there are things you can do right now to make a difference and potentially save lives.
Around your home, move flammable materials like dried leaves and needles, gas and propane containers and firewood away from all structures. Clean out your gutters. If you tow a trailer, make sure the chains don’t hang so low that they could hit the pavement and cause a spark. If you have to mow a lawn, do it in the cooler, wetter morning hours to prevent accidental sparks from igniting fires in dry grass. Don’t drop cigarette butts on the ground.
Adapting to longer, more intense fire seasons will require reconsidering some traditions and activities. As you celebrate this Fourth of July, stay safe and help out the firefighters, your neighbors and yourself by preventing accidental wildfires.
This article was updated July 1, 2021, with more scientists joining.