Wildfires Used to Be Less Intense at Night—But Not Anymore
If you’ve caught any wildfire news over the past couple of years, you’ll have noticed that fires are burning more intensely and for longer these days. Take the Cameron Peak Fire in Colorado in 2020, for instance. It raged on from August to December as scores of firefighters struggled to get it under control. It’s not a coincidence; through the effects of climate change, we’ve created ideal conditions for the most devastating wildfires to thrive.
What kinds of conditions promote fire intensity and spread? It’s pretty easy to guess: hot, dry weather is the worst culprit. In previous years, weather in fire-prone areas was more likely to be cooler and damp—especially at night when temperatures dropped. This last part is important because cooler nighttime conditions historically gave firefighters the chance to gain ground on a fire since it burned less readily at those times. According to a new study in Nature, however, this is an advantage firefighters are losing or have already lost in many areas.
What’s the effect of fires that no longer lessen in intensity at night? Unfortunately, it sets the stage for wildfires that burn longer and more intensely and spread further. When weather conditions cause them to burn just as hot and move just as quickly at night as during the day, firefighters have a much harder time getting them under control. It doesn’t give them enough time and personnel to undertake fire-curbing measures like burnouts. Plus, limited visibility at night hinders their efforts too.
The results of this concerning trend aren’t hard to imagine, because we’ve already started experiencing them. Fires will continue to burn for longer, taking months or perhaps even more than a year to put out. More homes and city infrastructure will be damaged, leading to major disruptions of life as we know it and rendering vast areas uninhabitable.
The natural environment will suffer greatly as well, as crucial habitats for many plant and animal species will be destroyed. Plus, the health effects of smoke on human lungs will become more widespread, which is especially dangerous in the age of a highly contagious respiratory virus like COVID-19.
What can be done? If wildfires start burning equally intensely day and night, we may not have the resources to fight them all and protect our homes and cities. That’s why we need to take action, together as a worldwide community, to curb the effects of climate change and prepare for fire. Scientists point to climate change as a key cause of the increasingly hot, dry weather conditions that allow wildfires to start, spread, and become out of control more easily, day and night.
Curbing greenhouse gas emissions is the first and most important action step we need to take. If we can reduce our reliance on unsustainable fuel sources that harm the environment (like coal, oil, and gas), we still may be able to reverse this dangerous trend.
Better yet, more sustainable agricultural and forestry practices would also help us in preventing wildfires from spreading so easily. If we want to protect our homes, our families, and our planet, supporting legislation and government action to stop climate change and therefore erase the most devastating wildfires from our future is critical.
Ember Defense | Wildfire Home Hardening
While we can hope that we can reverse the effects of climate change, we are at a point where we have to live with fire. That means preparing for the worst but there are ways to feel more at ease when fire is at your doorstep.
Taking precautionary measures to harden your home so it can stay standing during wildfire is the first step. Updates like adding Vulcan Vents, gutter guards, exterior sprinklers, and applying long-term fire retardant around your property can help protect it from igniting and burning down.
Call Ember Defense today to start the home hardening process! Let’s take fire danger into our own hands.