Between 2008 and 2012, lightning was responsible for approximately 9,000 wildfires throughout the United States. Lighting-related fires are most common between the months of June and August. However, weather patterns can have an impact on this. Learning more about how lightning causes wildfires helps you to see how they occur and provides information about what to do to reduce the potential damage.
How Lightning Causes Wildfires
Any time thunder is present, there is a risk for lightning to strike. It is a kind of electric current.
Inside a thundercloud, lots of frozen raindrops run into each other when they are moving around in the air. An electric charge results from these collisions. As this continues to happen, electrical charges fill the cloud. The protons, which are positive charges, accumulate at the upper part of the cloud while the electrons, which are negative charges, accumulate in the cloud’s lower area.
Opposites attract, causing an accumulation of protons under the cloud on the ground. Trees and other things that stick up have the electrical charge of the ground concentrating around them. These charges will eventually connect with the cloud’s charge, causing a strike of lightning. Since lightning is electricity, when it strikes something potentially flammable, such as shrubs or a tree, a fire can start.
Reducing the Damage of Wildfires
While nothing can completely prevent lightning-related wildfires, there are some ways that may help to reduce how much damage occurs when these fires start. Such methods include:
- Introduce more native vegetation to essentially act as a barrier
- Remove shrubs and trees that are dying since these are more prone to catching fire
- Keep shrubs and trees trimmed, with shrubs being under 18 inches in height and trees being at least six feet above the ground when possible
- Remove any pine needles from the forest floor
- Fallen trees and other debris should be removed promptly
Once a wildfire is burning, using retardant and water on the fire or adjacent to it is often used. This may be done via air from a plane or a helicopter. Fires that are burning slowly or small usually respond best to a direct hit of retardant or water.
Taking the steps to reduce the damage associated with a wildfire is important. Lightning cannot be controlled, but people can do things to potential mitigate how far the fire may spread and how quickly.
As we take the necessary steps to reduce the potential of damage, it’s good to respect and be in awe of this powerful force of nature. If you’re in the New Mexico area and are curious about lightning, check out the Unique Lightning Field!
If you are interested in learning more about how Gorman Lightning and Electric can prevent lightning damage to your home, call us today.