Wildfires: some say that we have to learn to live with them, some say that we need to stay indoors and close doors, windows, and ventilation systems until the plumes of smoke settle down, but in reality, we have to do something else, I will elaborate on that in a flaming hot minute!
Wildfires are very dangerous and destructive for many reasons. When I read on the news that a new fire started even in the most remote location in the world, I take a deep breath because it can happen to anyone and everywhere. It has happened to my parents’ house, and a vast feeling of impotency takes your whole body. In most cases, we worry about the destructiveness, but it is more than that.
Wildfires can occur naturally but unfortunately in most cases, they are byproducts of unconscious anthropogenic behaviour because we leave trash everywhere. Glass bottles that work as magnifying glass under the hot summer sunlight, cigarette buds, fireworks, BBQs are some of the common reasons wildfires start.
Not many people know this but wildfires create new wildfires through pyrocumulus clouds which basically are the cloud plumes that are electrically charged, as a result, lightning bolts come out of the pyrocumulus clouds which light new fires a few kilometers away. Firefighters have a hard time controlling multiple fronts and those kinds of fronts are unpredictably created.
Apart from the destruction of thousands of acres and the habitat of the animals, as I mention earlier wildfires create a lot of air pollution capable of traveling thousands of kilometres aways and we see example in the USA where smoke from fires in the west coast reach the east coast. Fine particles stay in suspensions for a long time (days to weeks) and particulate matter apart from our lungs can reach even our brain and heart when we breathe polluted air. The smaller the particles the longer and the further they travel.
We mustn’t learn to live with them every summer, but we must educate ourselves and become proactive. Humans tend to think about present conveniences rather than future well-being. This kind of behaviour leads to Mega wildfires each year as climate change becomes more and more obvious and permanent. The solution lies in humanity.
Meanwhile, to avoid breathing all the air pollutants from wildfires we have to monitor properly outdoor and indoor environments because we can’t close hermetically our houses for a long time as we need to introduce oxygen (fresh air) indoors and take out carbon dioxide (stale air). Once outdoor pollution is at acceptable levels we need to open windows or turn on the HVAC, ventilate the house and then close them back if AQ worsens again.
In indoor spaces, it is recommended to have purifiers with good HEPA filters (H12, H13) that will capture particulate matter effectively. In many US and EU cities, there are many outdoor air quality monitors but in case there isn’t one near you, there are various inexpensive PM outdoor monitors, like the DIY Sensor.Community project or the commercial inexpensive monitor uRadMonitor PM-Smoggie. You can always search on my blog for purifiers and indoor/outdoor air quality monitors as I have reviewed many of them.
We have done nothing to prevent climate change, the Paris Agreement in 2015 was a joke as temperatures and CO2 levels are still rising and the ecological catastrophes (wildfires, floods, extreme weather, ice cap melting, etc) are each year more frequent and potent.
I think we can’t ignore climate change anymore and we mustn’t think individually. A time has already come where the Amazon rainforest can’t cope anymore, as a result, forest burning produces around three times more CO2 than it absorbs. A negative loop where forests are more susceptible to uncontrolled fires as fewer trees meant less rain and higher temperatures, making the dry season even worse for the remaining ones.