In The Desert
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The only natural cause is lightning! Lightning storms do cause a lot of fires in the desert. These often happen in very unaccessible places, like canyons, mountains and rough terrain. Some areas are more prone to lightning strikes than others, often depending on height of trees in the area and the negative or positive charge of mountains. The southwest is particularly vulnerable to fires caused by lightning. These types of fires can create costs that escalate into the millions of dollars. Usually you think of fires that happen in cities that have the greatest cost, but this is not always true. See below for more on the cost of fighting fires in the desert.
Man made causes
Of course here we're thinking about campfires that weren't properly extinguished, and my favorite one -- the cigarette butt thrown carelessly out of the window. We all know this is wrong so lets not dwell on it. If you're too stupid to know any better then what I write here isn't going to make any difference. But there are other "man made" causes that you may not have considered. Here's a perfect example ---
This fire was purposely set -- to burn off a field. The farmers will tell you that it's a good practice, and it saves them from having to buy potash for the fields. This photo was taken from an Interstate highway -- a slight wind shift and there could have been a bad accident. Another thing, this is not good for the environment. I don't think this is a consideration to them and sometimes these fires get out of control.
Here's the result of a commercial field being burned. It got out of control and into an area in the desert with some brush and small trees. So if they tell you it's necessary, don't believe them. At $600 a ton for potash/potassium this could have been avoided. Luckily no houses were involved this time! See the video below!
Just to give you a better idea of what a fire like this looks like when it gets going.
Another man made cause, faulty wiring on an irrigation pump caused a fire that consumed 1825 acres of desert. This could have been avoided with proper maintenance. Quite a few homes were endangered because of this fire.
Now the surrounding area looks like this. Rainfall now will cause erosion and other problems.
A lot of the states in the desert southwest allow the personal use of fireworks. Some states this year (2012) have placed restrictions on the use of personal fireworks and this may help somewhat. Several fires have been started by fireworks, which in our opinion should be completely banned in dry areas. Only commercial fireworks should be allowed.
What do they use to fight fires and how much does all this cost? Photos included.
Page 2 Firefighters, equipment, cost.