The National Park Service estimates that 90 percent of wildfires are caused by humans. The cause of the fire in Paradise, Calif., right now is unknown. However, this summer’s Carr Fire in Redding, Calif., is believed to have been started by a spark caused by a trailer.

Once fires get going, nature can exacerbate the issue. High winds, heat and drought plus fire is a bad equation. Cal Fire  predicts that increased temperatures caused by climate change will also cause a greater number of fires and more destructive fires in the future.

Rick Carhart, the public information officer for Butte County Cal Fire, also notes fires are natural, and we will have them in California no matter what.

“I think that fire is inevitable and actually fire is natural,” he said. “Fire has been burning up chunks of California forever. … Fire is not necessarily a bad or evil thing. What’s happened though is that there’s been movement of people from cities out into the what we call the wildland urban interface.”

“I think rather than trying to figure out how to prevent the fires from starting at all, it’s learning to manage the land and have the land be able to coexist with the houses there,” Carhart added. “That’s a huge discussion, but it’s a discussion that needs to be had. It’s not something that’s going to be figured out this week or next week.”

All that said, here are things we can do to prevent and/or slow these fires:

In areas with a red flag warning, meaning there is a high potential for fire

  • Don’t cut down trees
  • Don’t operate equipment that could spark
  • Don’t mow your lawn
  • if you’re pulling heavy equipment or a personal trailer, make sure your chains do not scrape on the road to prevent sparks

In your yard

  • Consider fire-resistant plants within five feet of your house such as maple trees instead of more flammable pine trees, french lavender or sage.
  • Use stone walls and rocks on the ground instead of grass
  • Keep grass trimmed short
  • Do not burn debris on windy days and have a shovel, water and fire retardant ready in case the fire needs to be put out
  • Do not park a hot vehicle in dry grass or allow gas to spill on dry grass

In your house

  • Don’t keep your woodpile stacked against your house
  • Make sure you have an approved screen on your attic vents so embers can’t get in
  • Build your roof out of fire-resistant materials such as slate, terra cotta, tile or metal
  • Use fire-resistant materials elsewhere in your home such as stucco, which can cover other structural materials; gypsum; tempered glass for the windows and brick
  • Keep flammable items away from your home

While camping

  • Only start campfires in pits enclosed by stones that are clear of all flammable debris
  • Put the fires out completely with water
  • Never leave campfires unattended
  • Be careful when using lanterns, stoves, heaters, etc.
  • Contact officials immediately if you see a suspicious fire

Disposing of cigarettes

  • Put cigarettes out by putting them in water
  • Do not throw them on the ground

Information also provided by Rick Carhart and firefighter Krista Wurlitzer

This answer was produced by Pactio and journalist Ashlyn Rollins. Now, it’s time for you to ask your question.

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