Recently, I witnessed one of the weirdest phenomena and never realized it could actually happen. Living in Michigan’s lower peninsula, within the southeast Metro Detroit area, we are typically safe from the devastating effects of natural disasters. However, during the wildfires coming out of Canada, our little cocoon seemed to be punctured. The smoke from the wildfires miles away, infiltrated our skies for months to come. It looked like a whole city was having campfires the sky was so smokey!
From the beginning of the summer to well into the late summer, the wildfires brought some of the worst air quality levels Michigan has ever seen; spawned by a series of wildfires, Ontario, Canada’s burning forests sent smoke going on to affect states like Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan as well as swaths of the Northeast. Later in June, the smoke affected the Midwest, with air quality alerts in cities like Detroit, Minneapolis, and Chicago.
It was a real damper on our summer, as it is already short enough! My HVAC was on its last leg, and as a result of poor air quality, we were advised to keep our windows shut, thus forcing my poor old system to work without stopping for two months straight. It ended up dying. We ended up not being able to enjoy the fresh air or sunshine. The sky was constantly filled with a thick, hazy, smokey hew, with not much time left for outdoor fun and catching a suntan.
According to a Canadian television news source, “The fires, which began in early June and have affected Ontario and Quebec, have impacted Canadians and Americans alike. Canadian media reported that 14,000 people in Quebec were evacuated earlier in June. In Canada, the fires caused thick smoke that led to air quality warnings. In the Northeast, there was a similar effect: Cities like New York and Philadelphia were blanketed in a thick haze that eventually traveled south to Baltimore and Washington, D.C.”
Which states are most affected by wildfires?
Based on recent trends, California has been the state most threatened by wildfires, as 40% of all burned acres recently fell within its borders. California also had the most properties at risk of wildfire damage by a significant margin.
States in order of severity:
- North Carolina
From the time I was a little child, I dreamed of moving “out West” like the Hippies of my elder generation did. And the gold miners of the 1800s, during the California gold rush (1848–1855). It may not be gold these days, but it is possibly some golden dream that lies out West.
However, since growing into an adult and seeing all of the natural disasters that occur in these above states, plus the cost of living, has deterred me and redirected my dreams. Being in Michigan, with its employment opportunities, high excellence in education, sports, food, the ever-changing enjoyable seasons, and most importantly, 20%* of the world’s freshwater, I now understand why my ancestors chose to migrate to Michigan from Ellis Island, NY and stay here.
*The combined lakes contain the largest supply of fresh water on earth; 20% or one-fifth of the earth’s total fresh water, with more than 3,000 miles of shoreline, the Great Lakes not only form Michigan’s geography, but also shape our economy, society, and environment. –Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.
What are 90% of wildfires caused by?
According to the National Park Service, however, human-caused wildfires are significantly more common, with human involvement triggering 85% to 90% of wildfires. For any fire to occur, there are three elements needed—heat, fuel, and oxygen: Heat. Human-caused fires result from campfires left unattended, the burning of debris, equipment use and malfunctions, negligently discarded cigarettes, and intentional acts of arson.
When I was merely two months old, my mom and her parents (my grandparents) took my same-aged boy cousin and me camping for the first time, which spawned a lifelong love of the outdoors.
We were taught at a very young age about fire handling and safety as well as the dangers. We were also little during the 1970s when the “Smokey Bear” television PSAs were popular. Old Smokey is still around, I hear, but that wise bear sure did help little me think more conscientiously about our campfires.
According to Richard Earle, author of The Art of Cause Marketing, the Smokey Bear campaign is among the most powerful and enduring of all public service advertising: “Smokey is simple, strong, straightforward. He’s a denizen of those woods you’re visiting, and he cares about preserving them.
The Forest Service authorized the creation of Smokey Bear on August 9, 1944, and the first poster was delivered on October 10 by artist Albert Staehle that same year.
In addition to the direct causes mentioned earlier, indirect human activities can also contribute to the spread of wildfires. For instance, power lines and electrical equipment can malfunction and generate sparks, igniting nearby vegetation. Similarly, fireworks and other pyrotechnics, if not handled properly, can quickly start fires, especially in dry and windy conditions.
However, despite these efforts, wildfires continue to pose a significant threat. Factors such as climate change, urbanization, and the increase in human activities in wildland areas can exacerbate the risk of wildfires. Warmer temperatures, prolonged droughts, and changes in vegetation patterns create ideal conditions for the rapid spread of fires.
Additionally, the encroachment of residential areas into wildland areas increases the potential for human-caused ignition sources, as well as the difficulty in controlling and extinguishing fires.
Individuals need to be mindful of their actions and take precautions to prevent these accidents from happening. Efforts to educate the public about fire safety and prevention, like the Smokey Bear campaign, play an essential role in reducing the number of human-caused wildfires. Smokey Bear, with his simple yet powerful message, reminds people of their responsibility to protect our natural surroundings. This iconic character has become deeply ingrained in the public consciousness, serving as a symbol of environmental stewardship.
What states are affected by the Canadian wildfires?
In conclusion, while natural factors can occasionally ignite wildfires, human activities are responsible for the majority of these devastating events. By increasing awareness, promoting responsible behavior, and implementing effective fire management strategies, we can collectively reduce the occurrence and impact of human-caused wildfires.