If you live in Australia, western North America, or another wildfire-prone area, you’ve likely already experienced the dangers of these ever-growing threats. However, while the fires present a great danger, the smoke from wildfires is equally dangerous but impacts a far larger area.
Wildfire smoke releases PM2.5 (also known as fine particles) which can spread hundreds of kilometres from the source of the fire. It’s been found that pollution caused by wildfires can impact people as far as 3000 miles away! The ease at which wildfire smoke can spread allows it to impact millions of people in the country and sometimes neighbouring countries too.
Unfortunately, as the effects of climate change grow, it’s predicted the frequency and severity of wildfires will continue to increase. One of the organisations making this prediction is the UN Environmental Program, which recently released an article titled ‘Air pollution from wildfires expected to surge as world warms’.
The article mentions that by 2100 the number of wildfires is expected to grow by 50% - a staggering and very worrying amount. While the wildfires themselves are a concern, so too is the fine particle pollution which can aggravate asthma, trigger lung disease, cause heart attacks, and lead to premature deaths.
Although wildfires are expected to increase by 15% by 2030 and 30% by 2050, there are ways to combat both the frequency and severity of the disasters. In Indonesia, for example, the government worked with communities to train them with forest clearing techniques that don’t resort to fire.
With more funding being directed to forest fire prevention instead of fire response, we can hope to see a decrease in the number of human-created fires in the future. However, for now, it’s more important than ever to be prepared.
Read more on the UNEP website.