Wildfire Facts

Wildfires can happen by man-made or natural causes. Lightning striking an area with dry fuel such as leaves can cause a spark. Wildfires are unplanned and burn in forests, prairies, and grasslands. They are very devastating and can burn down homes, businesses, forests, and vegetation.

Wildfires are hard to put out and can cause habitats to be destroyed, making animals having to find new homes.

Dense White Smoke Rising from the Raging Wildfire

Wildfire Facts for Kids:

  • Wildfires can cause widespread damage to land
  • Ground fires burn by smoldering and can burn gradually for months
  • They can have negative ecological effects
  • Wildfires can spread faster up slopes and mountainsides
  • Plants, grass, and trees help to fuel a wildfire
  • Scientists have tried to make tools that will help them to stop wildfires.
  • Scientists use things such as satellite technology and sensors to be able to know a fire is happening quickly so that they can warn people.
  • The U.S. Forest Service created the Fire Potential Index or the FPI that will help to know when wildfires might happen close to grasslands and forests.
  • In the year 2008, more than 8 million acres of land across the United States were burned by wildfires.
  • There was a fire at the Yellowstone National Park in 1988 that burned over 1.2 million acres.
  • Some wildfires help animal species to have better places to live and it helps to recycle the land nutrients.

Wildfires are known as:

  • Hill fires
  • Peat fires
  • Bush fires
  • Grass fires
  • Vegetation fires
  • Forest fires
  • Wildland fires

What is the Cause of Wildfires?

There are many causes of wildfires such as:

  • Droughts
  • When people set fires in wildland areas
  • Lightning
  • Volcanic activity
  • Heatwaves

Even though there are many different causes for wildfires, most wildfires are caused by people that set fires and they become uncontrollable.


Where Do Wildfires Happen?

Wildfires can be found in many areas all around the world and are common in both the United States and Canada.  Most of the wildfires happen where there are forests.

Places such as Australia and Africa have a lot of areas that are covered in vegetation and these areas have many wildfires.

Wildfires are also very common where there are grasslands because there is so much grass that the fires can spread very quickly.

When Do Most Wildfires Happen?

Most wildfires happen in the summer or in the fall and when there are droughts or when a lot of branches or leaves have fallen.  When the branches and leaves fall off the trees, they become very dry.

When a small fire starts, the leaves and the branches are dry and can catch fire very quickly and cause the fire to spread.

What Are Santa Ana Winds?

Deerfire high

There are winds that can cause there to be larger fires in areas that have forests and a lot of brush.  These winds are called Santa Ana winds because they are hot and dry and they can increase the chances of a forest fire.

Most of the winds happen in the fall or in the winter and they happen mostly in places such as Southern California and Northern California.

The Santa Ana winds can blow at very high speeds up to 40 miles in one day and can reach up to 1,000 acres in an hour.

When there are small fires or embers that are burning, they can be spread with these winds and they can cause fires to break out.

What Kinds of Wildfires are There?

Aircraft Dropping Fire Retardant as it Battles the Raging Wildfire
  • Surface Fires
  • Ground Fires
  • Crown Fires
  • Conflagration Fires
  • Tornado Fires

Surface Fires – happen when a fire breaks out and it burns slowly across the forest.  This kind of fire kills whatever vegetation that it comes in contact with.

Ground Fires – happen when lightning hits an area and causes a fire to burn on the floor of the forest.  This fire can even burn through the roots of trees, even large ones.

Crown Fires – happen when the fire spreads because of the wind moving on top of the trees.

Conflagration Fires – are fires that are usually very big.  These fires spread because of strong winds and they usually will not stop for any barrier around them.

Tornado Fires – happen when there is a tornado that is made only of fire.  When the air temperature and the way that the currents blow changes, it can cause tornado fires to happen.

When a tornado fire happens, there is a whirlwind, and flames are in the whirlwind.  The flames of this type of wildfire can burn in or outside of the tornado.  Fires like these are very dangerous because they can spread very quickly.

What Does a Wildfire Need to Burn?

A wildfire has to have a fuel source such as trees or dry branches, oxygen and some type of heat source to be able to burn.

The heat source can come from lightning, the sun, a spark, or a campfire.

Are Wildfires Dangerous?

Rescue teams evacuating neighborhood from wildfire

Wildfires can be very dangerous because they can burn quickly, and they can be very destructive.

Some people need to leave their homes or where they live if a wildfire gets close to them because it can cause them to have trouble breathing because of the smoke and the fire can spread to the stuff in their yard and even to their home or buildings.

Wildfires also can cause:

  • Flooding
  • Debris to flow
  • Landslides
  • Smoke pollution

What Should You Do in the Case of a Wildfire?

If there is a wildfire you need to have a plan.  If there is a wildfire, follow these steps:

  • Always have a disaster plan if you live in an area that might have wildfires.
  • Know if your area is known for having wildfires.
  • Plant shrubs and trees around your home that are fire-resistant.
  • Make sure to keep a water hose close to your home that is long enough to put out any fires that come close to you.
  • Make sure that you have a first aid kit always at hand.
  • Keep food, water, and openers where you can get them in case of an emergency.
  • Keep radios that run on batteries.
  • Keep flashlights that run on batteries.
  • Know how to turn off things around your homes such as the gas, the water, and the electricity.
  • Listen to warnings that are given over the radio or television and follow them.
  • If you are told to leave the area, leave immediately.
  • Make sure that you have clothing available that will keep you safe.
  • Lock up your home and belongings.
  • Find a route that is safe from the fire.
  • Make sure to pay attention to the way the wind is blowing so you do not move in the direction of the smoke and the fire.
  • Stay in a safe place until the wildfire is put out.

How Do Wildfires Affect Us?

Incendio Caracas

There are many reasons that wildfires affect us or those around us.  One thing that happens in the case of wildfires is that the government will spend billions of dollars to try to make sure that wildfires do not happen or that wildfires do not spread.

When wildfires happen, it can cause whole wildlife habitats to be destroyed and can cause animals to have to leave for other areas.

The smoke that comes from wildfires can cause people to have many health problems such as respiratory problems and other problems breathing.

When communities are affected by wildfires, there might not be places to play or places to go and do stuff outside.  Sometimes some wildfires are so big that they can destroy community buildings completely.

What Happens After a Wildfire?

Even after a wildfire is put out, it can cause there to be things that happen to the area.

The area can have drinking water that is contaminated, there can be erosion and floods and because of the fire, sometimes much of the vegetation that we eat will become less and it will be more expensive to buy.

How Do Firefighters Put Wildfires Out?

Firefighters spray water to wildfire

Even though a wildfire can be super hard to put out and even control, there are two different ways that a firefighter helps to control a wildfire:

  • Firebreak-this is one of the best ways to get rid of or stop a wildfire.  Many areas help to burn away grass and trees that are dry in the direction that the wildfire is moving.  When they do this, the wildfire will have nothing to burn along the way and it will help to stop the fire from going any further.
  • Air Drop-The airdrop is when firefighters will drop water from the sky such as from airplanes or helicopters in order to stop the fire from spreading.  Some aircraft can carry thousands of gallons of water or other liquid to drop on a fire.

What Did You Learn?

  • What is a wildfire?  Wildfire is a fire that is uncontrollable and moves through areas that have a lot of trees, brush, or other vegetation.
  • What does a wildfire need to spread?  A wildfire needs three things to be able to spread.  It needs a fuel source, oxygen and a heat source to be able to spread.
  • Are wildfires dangerous?  Wildfires are dangerous and they can spread quickly and cause a lot of damage to an area.
  • What do we need to know if we live in an area where there are a lot of wildfires?  If you live in an area where there are a lot of wildfires, you need to make sure that you have a disaster plan in place in case one ever gets close to you.
  • Are some wildfires good?  Some wildfires are good because they help the animals to have better habitats and can clear out some vegetation that is too dry and help the nutrients to get better.