LIFE

8 Surprising Things You Need To Know About The Wildfires Ravaging The Pacific Northwest

by Grace Eire
Grace plays in a band and is the mother to a black cat named Fitzhugh.

The wildfires that sparked overnight between September 4 and 5 of 2017  have caused a state of emergency in east Multnomah County out in Washington state.

Many people have had to evacuate their homes, and efforts to keep historic monuments safe from the flames are in effect. However, it’s hard to predict how a wildfire will really act, as it is just that: wild.

Other than the fact that they’re incredibly destructive, most people don’t know all that much about wildfires, which are also called forest or peat fires. These are eight facts that will help you better understand what exactly happens before, during, and after a wildfire takes place.

No matter how much you know about forest fires, it’s very important to remain safe when one is near. If your county asks you to retreat, do not brush off the warning!

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1. 90% Of Forest Fires Are Started By Humans

campfire

Whether it’s from improperly extinguished camp fires, cigarette butts, or intentional acts of arson, almost all forest fires are started by humans, according to the National Park Service.

2. If It's Not Humans, It's Probably Caused By Lightning

2. If It's Not Humans, It's Probably Caused By Lightning

Lightning is also capable of starting a forest fire. Volcanic eruptions and sparks from falling rocks are also causes.

3. Forest Fires Will Burn Faster Uphill

uphill

For every 10 degrees of incline, the fire will spread twice as fast. This is because the flames can more easily reach new fuel.

4. Wind Dictates The Nature Of The Forest Fire

4. Wind Dictates The Nature Of The Forest Fire

Wind has a lot of power over a fire, dictating the speed, duration, and intensity of it. More wind means more oxygen fueling the fire. The CFA also states that a change in the wind is the most dangerous part of a forest fire.

5. Animals Know What To Do In A Fire

5. Animals Know What To Do In A Fire

According to National Geographic, animals of all kinds know to escape or seek refuge when a fire is approaching. For the most part, animals know how to stay safe in fires. Birds fly away, mammals run off, and smaller creatures take cover by burrowing under the ground or rocks.

However, their instincts can sometimes be wrong. While many animals do get away, some still unfortunately perish in the blaze.

6. Fire Tornadoes Can Sprout From Them

fire whirl

Fire tornadoes, also known as fire whirls, fire devils, or firenadoes, are terrifying things. They are formed when hot, dry air rises from the ground at a rapid rate, according to Live Science. These often occur during wildfires, spreading the fire when it was previously thought to be contained.

7. They Can Create Hurricane-Force Winds

winds

Wildfires have the capability of creating winds of up to 120 mph as a result of the rising heat. That is some really scary stuff!

8. Some Species Need These Fires To Survive

burnt

After a wildfire, is the forest dead? It may appear that way, but it’s not at all true — in fact, it’s just changed. There are some plant species that will only seed the year after a fire, and there are some animals that benefit from the aftermath, like woodpeckers who feast on beetles.

Wildfires give old forests a chance to be reborn, and since we humans have done our best to suppress them, we’ve actually thrown the whole ecosystem askew, according to National Geographic.

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