The Science of Wildfires

Wildfires exist in a world of their own, with their own dynamics and their own weather. Before you can fight a fire, you need to understand the forces that drive it. The lesson of this summer, however

HOW THEY START...

Wildfires result from a confluence of fuel, dryness and some kind of trigger. Each factor contributes to the severity of the blaze

--Fuel means flammable solids--grass, pine needles, undergrowth, smaller trees--that, with oxygen, feed the fire

--Dryness can be caused by short-term weather patterns with low humidity or by a lengthy drought that parches the landscape

--Triggers can be as natural as a lightning strike, as innocent as a campfire or as sinister as an arsonist

FUEL It's a dangerous recipe: decades of fighting every forest fire have left many areas dangerously full of fuel--sticks, fallen timber, pine...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!