Alarming Connection of Human Caused Wildfires and 4th of July
University of Montana Fire Scientist Phillip Higuera is one of 120 researchers who are urging all Montanans to forego the use of fireworks on the 4th of July.
Their article, “Over 100 fire scientists urge the U.S. West: Skip the fireworks this record-dry Fourth of July,” was published in the nonprofit media outlet The Conversation on June 30.
Higuera explained the statistics to KGVO News.
“If you look at human ignitions and of wildfires, particularly in the wildland urban interface for the period of 1992 to 2015, there were over 1,100 human ignited fires in the wildland urban interface on the west just on the Fourth of July,” said Higuera. “And that number is basically twice what it is in the periods before and after the Fourth of July.”
“So when you look at the number of human ignited fires across the year, that graph which we highlight in the piece has a big giant, obvious peak right at the Fourth of July,” he said. “So we know that it's a very predictable part of our behavior in celebrating the Fourth of July.”
Higuera acknowledged the family tradition of lighting fireworks around the 4th of July.
“We all love fireworks,” he said. “They're fun to see, and they're inspiring, but they also lead to unintentional wildfires, particularly when vegetation is dry as it is now.”
Higuera brought home the urgency of Montanans voluntarily giving up the temptation to light off fireworks during this period of extreme drought.
“Right now is not a great time to be playing with fireworks ourselves,” he said. “And part of the reason why this message is important this year is because conditions are unusually dry this Remember that the governor declared a drought emergency in Montana, and in that declaration he notes that the alarming drought conditions could result in a severe wildfire season.”
UM fire experts were joined in this call for extreme caution by signatories from 51 academic or research institutions from 20 U.S. states, as well as Canada, Australia, Italy and Spain. The majority were from the U.S. West, including over 30 from Montana, 15 from Colorado, 11 from Oregon and Idaho, seven from California and six each from Arizona and Washington.
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