As many wildfire prevention specialists will tell you (with tongue in cheek), wildfires start from three main causes: men, women and children. Statistics on wildfire ignitions in the US have varied with regard to lightning vs. human-caused, with some documents showing a more or less even split from those two main causes. New research, however, on two decades' worth of fire data, paints a different picture. University of Colorado Boulder researchers have determined that 84% of wildfires from 1992 to 2012 were started by human beings.
According to the article in CU Boulder Today, this significant proportion of wildfire starts caused by people is both cause for concern and hope. “Not all fire is bad, but humans are intentionally and unintentionally adding ignitions to the landscape in areas and seasons when natural ignitions are sparse,” said John Abatzoglou, an associate professor of geography at the University of Idaho and a co-author of the paper. “We can’t easily control how dry fuels get, or lightning, but we do have some control over human started ignitions.”