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Reduce Wildfires and Ensure Outdoor Health and Safety

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Wildfire smoke poses severe health risks, affecting both humans and animals. Take action to reduce the risk of these devastating fires!

Intense smoke from devastating wildfires in Canada has crossed the border, enveloping skies over the eastern United States. This hazardous smoke poses a significant threat to public health, prompting air quality alerts affecting over 75 million people on the East Coast1. The scale of destruction caused by wildfires is alarming, with Canada alone witnessing over 400 incidents in 2023, twice the historical average2.

Understanding the Causes of Wildfires

Human-induced climate change plays a substantial role in exacerbating the conditions that fuel wildfires. Rising temperatures and dry climates create a tinderbox effect, making forests and vegetation more susceptible to ignition3. Recent scientific reports directly link carbon pollution from major fossil fuel and cement companies to the scorching of millions of acres in the Western US and Canada4.

Improper land management practices and urban encroachment into fire-prone regions also contribute to wildfires5. Careless actions like improperly extinguished campfires, discarded cigarettes, and debris burning can easily spark fires, especially during periods of high temperatures and drought6. These human-caused ignitions, combined with the heightened flammability of landscapes due to climate change, create a dangerous synergy that increases the frequency and severity of wildfires.

Conditions That Fuel Wildfire Spread

Several factors contribute to the rapid spread of wildfires. High temperatures, low humidity, and strong winds create a perfect storm for fire ignition and propagation. Dry vegetation and accumulated fuel, combined with drought and little rainfall, create highly flammable material that fuels fires7. The topography of an area also influences wildfire spread, with steep slopes and canyons channeling flames and allowing fires to advance rapidly8. The proximity of human settlements to fire-prone areas increases the risk of property damage and threatens lives.

The Dangers of Wildfire Smoke

Wildfire smoke poses severe health risks to both humans and animals. Fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5, can penetrate deep into the lungs and bloodstream, leading to respiratory and cardiovascular issues9. Vulnerable populations, including the elderly, children, and those with pre-existing lung conditions, are particularly at risk. Prolonged exposure to smoke weakens the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to respiratory infections10. Toxic compounds in the smoke further compromise respiratory health and contribute to chronic diseases. Animals also face respiratory issues and habitat destruction due to wildfires, disrupting ecosystems and biodiversity.

Take Action: Reduce the Risk of Wildfires

As concerned individuals, we have a responsibility to protect our communities and minimize the risk of wildfires. By pledging to make choices that reduce the risk of wildfires, we can protect our communities, safeguard our environment, and ensure a healthier future for generations to come.

Stay informed, stay safe, and let's work together to prevent and mitigate the devastating impacts of wildfires. Take the pledge to reduce wildfire risk and support a safer future for all!

More on this issue:

  1. Holly Yan, Aya Elamroussi, Celina Tebor, Meg Tirrell, Tina Burnside, Emma Tucker, CNN (7 June 2023), "Intense smoke fills NYC and forces a ‘code red’ in Philadelphia as millions from the East Coast to Canada suffer from Quebec’s wildfires."
  2. Allison Lampert, Ismail Shakil, Reuters (2 June 2023), "Wildfires spread in eastern Canada, forcing evacuations in coastal Quebec."
  3. Zack Budryk, The Hill (24 July 2021), "Humans are the cause of most wildfires. Climate change will make that worse."
  4. Kristina A Dahl, John T Abatzoglou, Carly A Phillips, J Pablo Ortiz-Partida, Rachel Licker, L Delta Merner, Brenda Ekwurzel, Environmental Research Letters (2023), "Quantifying the contribution of major carbon producers to increases in vapor pressure deficit and burned area in western US and southwestern Canadian forests."
  5. United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service (July 2013), "Managing Wildfire Risk in Fire-Prone Landscapes: How Are Private Landowners Contributing?"
  6. Brian Lada, AccuWeather (2023), "The most common ways people spark devastating wildfires in the US."
  7. Sydney Dauphinais, OPB (2 September 2020), "Wildfire suppression efforts are more aggressive than ever, but is there an ecological cost?"
  8. National Wildfire Coordinating Group (2008), "S-190, Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior."
  9. New York State Department of Health (February 2018), "Fine Particles (PM 2.5) Questions and Answers."
  10. Claire Bugos, Verywell Health (30 July 2021), "What You Should Know About Wildfire Smoke Exposure and COVID-19."
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The Pledge:

I pledge to take action and reduce the risk of wildfires, recognizing the damage they cause and the health issues they pose to communities and ecosystems. I understand that human-induced climate change has worsened the conditions that fuel wildfires, and it is my responsibility to contribute to a safer and healthier environment. Here are the 15 actions I pledge to take:

  1. Practice fire safety: I will follow local fire regulations and guidelines to prevent accidental ignition. I will be cautious when using fire outdoors, ensure proper disposal of cigarette butts, and avoid open burning during dry conditions.
  2. Be mindful of campfire safety: When camping or enjoying outdoor activities, I will always adhere to campfire safety guidelines. I will extinguish campfires completely and never leave them unattended.
  3. Promote responsible land management: I will support initiatives that promote responsible land management, including controlled burns and the removal of dead vegetation. These practices help prevent the rapid spread of wildfires.
  4. Raise awareness: I will share information about the dangers of wildfires with friends, family, and my community. I will educate others on fire safety practices and the importance of preserving our natural environment.
  5. Support climate action: I will advocate for policies and practices that address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I will support renewable energy sources, promote sustainable practices, and engage with organizations working toward a greener future.
  6. Properly store flammable materials: I will store flammable materials, such as gasoline and propane, in approved containers and in a safe location away from ignition sources.
  7. Be cautious with power equipment: When using power equipment outdoors, such as lawnmowers and chainsaws, I will be mindful of sparks and ensure proper maintenance to minimize the risk of accidental ignition.
  8. Report suspicious activities: If I witness suspicious activities that may lead to arson or wildfires, I will promptly report them to the authorities.
  9. Support local fire departments: I will support my local fire departments through donations, volunteer work, or participating in community programs aimed at wildfire prevention and preparedness.
  10. Stay informed and prepared: I will stay informed about wildfire risks in my area and follow evacuation procedures and emergency plans if necessary. I will also prepare an emergency kit and create a family communication plan to ensure everyone's safety during wildfire events.

By taking these actions and pledging to make choices that reduce the risk of wildfires, we can protect our communities, safeguard our environment, and ensure a healthier future for generations to come. Together, let us prevent and mitigate the devastating impacts of wildfires and support a safer future for all.

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