The destructive power of a wildfire is a terrifying sight. Though they are caused, in some instances, by a confluence of natural forces, experts like environmental scientists and wildfire loss lawyers say that the vast majority are the result of human action.
“Nearly 85% of wildland fires in the United States are caused by humans,” according to the National Park Service, and the catalysts for these blazes range from mistakenly unattended campfires to wanton, intentional arson. What’s more, these fires present a clear danger to the people living in affected areas. In the United States alone, there are some 4.5 million homes that are at “high risk.”
With that in mind, and in an effort to inform, we’re going to take a look at some of the most devastating wildfires caused by human hands, and the stories behind how they likely started.
1987 Black Dragon Fire
On May 6th, 1987, in the Daxing’anling Prefecture of China, a massive flame erupted that burned for nearly a month and even spread into what was then the Soviet Union. When the fire finally subsided on June 2nd, 1987, it had covered some 2,500 square miles of forest, and a total area of nearly 6,200 square miles.
It’s estimated that 266 people were wounded in the fire, 211 died, and nearly 50,000 were left homeless. The cause of this blaze? A young worker spilled and ignited some gas on the job, which, combined with the dry conditions, made for quite the disaster.
2016 Uttarakhand Fires
Sometimes people start fires intentionally, and for legitimate forestry reasons. That wasn’t the case in the Uttarakhand Fires of 2016. This area in northern India saw an uptick in the number of small, man-made fires (some 1,600 in over a month), which experts say may even have been the result of some illegal timbering activity. These blazes were so bad that 8,600 acres of land were burned, and the Indian Air Force had to deploy helicopters to the area to control the spread of the fires.
2018 Attica Wildfires
One of the most deadly wildfires of the 21st Century took place in the coastal areas of Greece in 2018. About 102 people were confirmed dead as a result of these blazes, with more than 4,000 people in total being affected by the disaster. It took more than 600 firefighters to control the flames, and the cause of the fires was traced to an old man who was irresponsibly burning wood in his garden.