Over 150 fire scientists urge the US West: Skip the fireworks this record-dry 4th of July

[a little paternalism to start out Friday~cr]


Philip Higuera, The University of Montana; Alexander L. Metcalf, The University of Montana; Dave McWethy, Montana State University, and Jennifer Balch, University of Colorado Boulder

The heat wave hitting the northwestern U.S. and Canada has been shattering records, with temperatures 30 degrees Fahrenheit or more above normal. With drought already gripping the West, the intense heat has helped suck even more moisture from millions of acres of forests and grasslands, bringing dead vegetation in many regions to record-dry levels and elevating the fire danger to its highest categories.

With this combination of extreme drought, heat and dry vegetation, all it takes is a spark to ignite a wildfire.

That’s why over 150 fire scientists, including us, along with fire officials across the West, are urging people to skip the fireworks this Fourth of July and to avoid other activities that could start a blaze.

Humans start the most wildfires on July Fourth

For decades, one of the most striking and predictable patterns of human behavior in the western U.S. has been people accidentally starting fires on the Fourth of July. From 1992 to 2015, more than 7,000 wildfires started in the U.S. on July 4 – the most wildfires ignited on any day during the year. And most of these are near homes.

With this year’s tinder-dry grasslands and parched forests, sparks from anything – a cigarette, a campfire, a power line, even a mower blade hitting a rock – could ignite a wildfire, with deadly consequences.

Year-round, humans extend the fire season by igniting fires when and where lightning is rare. And it is these very fires that pose the greatest threat to lives and homes: Over 95% of the wildfires that threatened homes in recent decades were started by people. Farther from human development – beyond the “wildland-urban interface” – the majority of area burned by wildfires in the West is still due to lightning.

Whether ignited by people or lightning, human-caused climate change is making fires easier to start and grow larger due to increasingly warm, dry conditions. The western U.S. saw these consequences during 2020’s record fire season – and the 2021 fire season has the ingredients to be just as devastating.

Data as of June 29, 2021
Chart: The Conversation/CC-BY-ND  Source: NIFC  Get the data  Download image

Here’s how to stay safe

We’ve spent years studying the causes and impacts of wildfires across North America and around the globe, and working with managers and citizens to envision how best to adapt to our increasingly flammable world. We’ve outlined strategies to manage flammable landscapes and thought carefully about how communities can become more resilient to wildfires.

When asked “What can we do?” many of our suggestions require long-term investments and political will. But there are things you can do right now to make a difference and potentially save lives.

Around your home, move flammable materials like dried leaves and needles, gas and propane containers and firewood away from all structures. Clean out your gutters. If you tow a trailer, make sure the chains don’t hang so low that they could hit the pavement and cause a spark. If you have to mow a lawn, do it in the cooler, wetter morning hours to prevent accidental sparks from igniting fires in dry grass. Don’t drop cigarette butts on the ground.

Building and car destroyed by fire.

This Fourth of July, skip the fireworks and campfires – instead, catch a laser light show, make s’mores in the microwave and celebrate by keeping summer skies smoke-free for as long as possible.

Many communities are banning personal and public fireworks and voluntarily canceling fireworks displays because of wildfire concerns.

Adapting to increasingly uncharted territory

The fingerprints of human-caused climate change are all over the current drought, the recent heat waves, and what could become another record-setting fire season. Research highlights how human-caused climate change increases the frequency and magnitude of extreme events, including drought, wildfire activity and even individual extreme fire seasons.

Adapting to longer, more intense fire seasons will require reconsidering some traditions and activities. As you celebrate this Fourth of July, stay safe and help out the firefighters, your neighbors and yourself by preventing accidental wildfires.

This article was updated July 1, 2021, with more scientists joining.

[Understand new developments in science, health and technology, each week. Subscribe to The Conversation’s science newsletter.]

Philip Higuera, Professor of Fire Ecology and Paleoecology, The University of Montana; Alexander L. Metcalf, Associate Professor of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, The University of Montana; Dave McWethy, Associate professor of Earth Sciences, Montana State University, and Jennifer Balch, Associate Professor of Geography and Director, Earth Lab, University of Colorado Boulder

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

3.1 9 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
July 2, 2021 2:19 am

Skip the fireworks if you want, but the greenies will set fires anyway and scream climate change. No one would ever suspect an environmentalist would burn mother earth to save it, right?

Reply to  Klem
July 2, 2021 3:46 am

Greens don’t set fires. That’s a scandalous and untrue accusation.

Reply to  griff
July 2, 2021 4:47 am

You may be right, greens aren’t very smart so starting a fire might be a little too much for them 🤔

Reply to  Derg
July 2, 2021 11:00 am

They’d get too exhausted rubbing two sticks together.

Reply to  griff
July 2, 2021 6:08 am

Another lie from the lie spewing liar. Your fellow leftards have been convicted, in multiple states and countries, for doing exactly that. And you praise them as heroes.

Reply to  griff
July 2, 2021 8:19 am

Well, when they’re settings fires, they’re red-greens….

Reply to  griff
July 2, 2021 1:25 pm

No, scandalous would be you displaying common sense

Rich Davis
Reply to  Lrp
July 2, 2021 4:11 pm

I didn’t realize that scandalous was a synonym for impossible.

Gunga Din
Reply to  griff
July 2, 2021 6:33 pm

ELF (Environmental Liberation Front) set fire to a ski resort (maybe just condos?) under construction 25 or 30 years ago. (In Colorado, I think.)

Gunga Din
Reply to  Gunga Din
July 2, 2021 6:41 pm

(Might be the same the incident Scissors referenced above.)
Point being, Griff, maybe YOU wouldn’t do something like that, but you are supporting those who have and would.

July 2, 2021 2:47 am

The high priest tore his own clothes to show his horror at hearing blasphemy – this was a custom among very self-righteous elitist scientists….

One idea that has dominated EU policy-making for decades, and the UK is continuing with it post-Brexit, is the precautionary principle. This suggests that precautionary action should be considered ‘even before a causal link has been established by absolutely clear scientific evidence’.  

You could call it the tyranny of the precautionary principle. I do. 

Their world is an utterly joyless one.

Reply to  fretslider
July 2, 2021 4:55 am

Worse, they spread their misery through stupidity.

Shutting down power plants before the end of their operational life without providing for replacement dispatchable electricity would seem to defy the precautionary principle, but here we are.

Alan the Brit
Reply to  fretslider
July 2, 2021 5:01 am

Were not the fires that spread across Greece some years back found to have been started deliberately, or at least enhanced by additional smaller fires started deliberately to demonstrate how the Earth was heating up due to good old free-enterprise capitalism? Ditto in Australia, & California recently?

Reply to  Alan the Brit
July 2, 2021 11:02 am

Not sure about the other areas, but here in California yes some of them were deliberate. Some were the result of electric utilities.

Reply to  fretslider
July 2, 2021 5:06 am

“The Precautionary Principle: Don’t stand up lest you fall down.”

Dan DeLong
July 2, 2021 10:23 am

By the Precautionary Principle, you must join every religion and cult, because what if one of them is right?

Mike McMillan
July 2, 2021 11:49 am
Rory Forbes
Reply to  Mike McMillan
July 2, 2021 1:42 pm

Mothers have been advocating the “Precautionary Principle” since there were sharp sticks or scissors to run with. It’s a distinctly female appeal to emotion “better safe than sorry” and “just in case” mentality. If Mankind had followed it we’d still be a minor primate, if we had even survived.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  fretslider
July 2, 2021 6:12 am

What they claim is actually a perversion of the Precautionary Principle. It’s true rubric is that in the absence of firm knowledge, you should not take action. Not sure if CO2 is causing warming? Sit on it until you have more data, don’t collapse the world economy.

July 2, 2021 2:58 am

Id have thought anyone with a few grey cells woulda already thought it was stupid to let fireworks off in drylands
but then usa also lets people abuse water till the dams are in crisis than hopes people will restrict use..but no
from overflowing might break dam wall to golly gosh we have low water, on the SAME dam within a yr

Last edited 1 year ago by ozspeaksup
Reply to  ozspeaksup
July 2, 2021 9:42 am

…lets POLITICIANS abuse water… Needed that fix.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  ozspeaksup
July 2, 2021 9:42 am

Where I live in the Pacific Northwest, there aren’t many brain cells left. Banning does no good. All of the Indian reservations around here sell illegal fireworks, so all the morons bring them home and set them off for the week leading up to, and the week after July 4th.

The idiots across the street especially like to aim all the fireworks away from their property, and onto mine and other neighbors. All of the grass around here is brown this time of year, so it’s especially stupid.

Call the cops, you say? Pfft. They might come by, say something to the idiots, then leave. 30 mins later they’re at it again.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeff Alberts
July 2, 2021 3:08 am

Is this originally from the Babylon Bee or Onion?

Even our anti human residents on this site like Griff, Lloydo, Simon, Nick….enjoy fireworks 💥

Reply to  Derg
July 2, 2021 3:48 am

I do.

But really? If there’s a drought/heatwave/high fire risk?

I remember 1976 in the UK when I lived in Surrey – the smell of burning every day for weeks as the heathland caught fire

Reply to  griff
July 2, 2021 4:48 am

Oh good…I was worried

Alan the Brit
Reply to  griff
July 2, 2021 5:05 am

Started by careless smokers discarding cigarette stubs thrown to the ground. I was around back then & never heard of a spontaneous fire outbreak!!! I was also a trainee draughtsmen with what was the Thames Water Authority & knew all about the drought!!!

Reply to  Alan the Brit
July 2, 2021 8:46 pm

Is it not case that there are only three natural causes of ignition – lightning, volcanoes or meteoric strikes. All other fires require human input to ignite = accident, stupidy or deliberate. Spontaneous combustion can happen in say a haystack or pile of sawdust but they are human constructs. Spontaneous combustion in loose leaf litter on a forest floor? Doesn’t happen.

Reply to  griff
July 2, 2021 1:33 pm

CO2 must have been very high in 1976

Peta of Newark
July 2, 2021 3:58 am

I’d reckon that the amount of wood pellets stuffed into Drax every day, Drax alone, would be ‘A Very Good Start‘ to fireproofing 1000 acres of ground

Especially as that wood is pelletised. Absolutely perfect for ‘direct injection’ into dried out and desert-like dirt.
Even just a standard seed drill would do, it it could be got to work at 6 inches or deeper.
A slighytly adapetd chisel plough would be brilliant – every large farmer round here owns and opearte at least one such device (as prep for potato planting)

That wood would soak-up & store soooo much water. Heat also.

Cover enough ground, say after 10 years and:
It might even ‘Change The Climate’

There you go:
Switch off Drax and use the stuff that previously went in there to fire/climate-proof 350,000 acres per year of your own backyard.

What Is Not To Like

It might even create a few “Good Paying Union Jobs”

edit to add:
Slighlty adpaetd slepling is great too doncha tink 😀

Last edited 1 year ago by Peta of Newark
Reply to  Peta of Newark
July 2, 2021 9:13 am

If you charcoalized that wood pellet first, then would be a real good soil additive.

Bruce Cobb
July 2, 2021 4:28 am

The greasy grubby fingerprints of Alarmists are all over this article, but beyond that, it’s pretty much common sense stuff. Stupid people do stupid things. Mow dry grass? How dumb is that? Are they trying to kill it?

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
July 2, 2021 3:41 pm

Most people in my area don’t water their lawn and let it go dormant (dry out) until the fall rains start when it greens right up. Unfortunately grass still grows over the septic field and weeds with deeper roots keep growing so there’s still a need to mow. Why do we do that? Because if we water it needs to be mowed every two days (FYI main cropland in the area is growing grass for grass seed because grass grows so damn well) and by the time spring is over we are sick and tired of mowing.

Anyway, yes stupid people do stupid things. 4-5 years ago we had a fairly serious fire started by a retired fire chief mowing his lawn during the heat of the day when there was a no mow order out between 10am and 7pm due to the extreme dry conditions. Yes, he had a green lawn but he lived in the woods where the brush was tinder dry. That’s where the spark landed which ignited the fire and not his green lawn.

July 2, 2021 4:48 am

Well, this is interesting: wildfires benefit plants.

From the US Fish & Wildlife Service:


From that article:
Fire has been a force in creating or maintaining northeastern pine barrens, sandplain grasslands, blueberry barrens, and pine pocosins.

  • Pine barrens, found from southern New England through Long Island and into New Jersey, are inhabited by pitch pine and scrub oak, trees that are well adapted to fire and can depend on it for survival. To release their seeds, the cones of several evergreen trees such as pines, must be exposed to high temperatures to melt their waxy seals. Pine barrens are also home to rare and beautiful plants such as blazing star, wild lupine, and sandplain gerardia (an endangered species) that also need fire to reproduce.
  • Fire controls competing plant species in Oak-hickory forests, found throughout the eastern U.S. Oaks are resistant to fire and benefit from nutrients returned quickly to the soil during a burn. Fire stimulates new sprouts in shagbark hickory.
  • Pine pocosins are a type of bog characterized by evergreen shrubs. Sites such as the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia are home to pine pocosins, which for millennia have been maintained by and adapted to lightning-caused wildfires.

Wildfires benefit land animals, insects, and plants, some of which require fire to set seeds, start roots, and grow. It’s the reason controlled burns go on in my county on a recurring basis.

In fact, long before us pale people invaded North America, the hunter-gatherer population on the prairies engaged in burns to reduce weeds and enrich the soil. Better fodder for the game animals, better hunting.

Fires ALSO get rid of dead trees like dead pines, which is caused by pine bark beetles, add fertilizing chemicals to woodland soils, and reduce crowding that prevents younger trees like maples and oaks from reaching full maturity.

And finally, (as David Middleton told me some time ago) there were and have always been, natural wildfires caused by lightning strikes, going all the way back to the Silurian and Carboniferous periods, which burned fiercely and without let or hindrance, owing to the extremely high O2 content of the planet’s atmosphere. There are plenty of coal seams to prove this, so fire is a beneficial thing that plant life, which provides us with a life-friendly oxygen atmosphere, requires to continue to exist.

Last edited 1 year ago by Sara
Reply to  Sara
July 2, 2021 5:06 am

The narrative is that wildfire is increasing because of global warming. Frequently, at least in the U.S., those selling that narrative will start graphs at the year 1960, which turns out to be the modern low. Go back another 30 or 40 years when wildfires were ten times worse and their narrative fails.

Yes, having more people around create more opportunities for fire ignition, if only accidentally. Modern firefighting equipment powered by fossil fuels, on the other hand, gives us the ability to protect buildings and property like never before.

As you point out, Sara, there are numerous factors that need to be considered for proper forest management.

Reply to  Scissor
July 2, 2021 6:08 am

Yes, the “global warming causes fires” part I do understand, and it is completely ridiculous. Natural heat doesn’t cause fires: fires require an ignition point, which for paper is 480F degrees. That is WELL below any globull warrming temperature line, and we both know it.
While it’s obvious that fires in a crowded area are very bad, denying the real needs of biota like plants that require fire to reseed is denial of reality. If you look at the link to the US Fish & Wildlife page, you’ll see that there is a rare butterfly, the Karner Blue, native to Wisconsin, that depends on lupines for food and shelter, and forests are growing now where the Karner Blue’s lupines used to grow.
The only way to stop the misinformation is to keep insisting on the reality of these kinds of things.

Last edited 1 year ago by Sara
July 2, 2021 4:50 am

The biggest climate killer of the world is cold. However, this should not be much mentioned these days, right before AR6 will undermine the criteria for decent science once again….
Still, the potential dramatic combination of fireworks, flaming landscapes and desperate people has inspired me to make some rearrangements on Stephens Crane’s classic poem War is kind:

Warmth is Kind [“Do not weep, maiden, for warmth is kind”]

Do not weep, maiden, for warmth is kind.
Because your lover threw cold hands toward the sky
And the affrighted statistics ran on alone,
Do not weep.
Warmth is kind.

      Hoarse, booming drums of the climate regiment,
      Little souls who thirst for fight,
      These men were born to drill and lie.
      The unexplained glory flies above them,
      Great is the climate-god, great, and his kingdom—
      A field where a thousand scientists lie.

Do not weep, babe, for warmth is kind.
Because your father tumbled in the cold trenches,
Raged at his breast, gulped and died,
Do not weep.
Warmth is kind.

      Swift, blazing tables of the regiment,
      Graphs with crest of red and gold,
      These men were born to drill and lie.
      Point for them the virtue of science,
      Make plain to them the excellence of truth
      And a field where a thousand scientists lie.

Mother whose heart hung humble as a button
On the bright splendid diploma of your son,
Do not weep.
Warmth is kind.

July 2, 2021 5:32 am

In my part of the U.S. West, I see no sign of drought. My rain barrel so far this season has been empty for only a few days in total. Mother nature filled it again yesterday. The wild grasses and other vegetation are healthy and vibrant. So is ragweed, unfortunately.

Anyway, it’s again on the cool side this morning, 55F for my ride bike to Boulder.

Reply to  Scissor
July 2, 2021 6:10 am

In my part of the upper Midwest, 56F this morning. Almost turned on the furnace. The calendar says July. Must be some mistake in printing…. something like that.

July 2, 2021 5:40 am
Hoyt Clagwell
July 2, 2021 5:44 am

There’s always a reason for shutting down fireworks if you don’t like to see people celebrating freedom from government. Every time we have wet years in the West they say that it led to more growth of “fuel” for fire season. All we really need is less stupidity. But that would be nice every day.

Reply to  Hoyt Clagwell
July 2, 2021 6:13 am

They’re afraid of every cotton pickin’ thing, aren’t they?

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Hoyt Clagwell
July 2, 2021 9:49 am

It’s not celebrating freedom when you’re an irresponsible douchebag.

July 2, 2021 6:08 am

Here in Southern VT we had over an inch of rain and more expected. So I’m out the door and over to fireworks friendly New Hampshire to load up for some sparkle and bang.

Some years when it’s too dry I’ll wait for New Year’s Eve when there’s snow on the ground.
Fireworks during a snow storm is a real hoot…

July 2, 2021 6:09 am

This announcement will insure morons go out and do it anyway.

Randle Dewees
Reply to  2hotel9
July 2, 2021 6:42 am

Yes, in any group there is, sure to be, a small fraction that are just morons. That will do moronic stuff.

In my bit of the South Sierra there will be a small moronic fraction of the weekend horde that will insist on having their illegal campfires in the very dry P&J (pinon and juniper), and big pine areas. If we are lucky we will get through this summer without another huge fire.

I won’t argue the merits of fire prevention policy anymore. Every fire is a heart breaker as another wonderful area is destroyed in each one.

Reply to  Randle Dewees
July 4, 2021 4:19 am

Same here in western PA, each time it rains a bit morons run out and burn piles of brush/trash/etc, never mind it was not enough rain to alter the underlying dry condition of the surrounding forest. As the man said, stupid is as stupid does.

John Dilks
July 2, 2021 6:56 am

Could they possibly include the phrase “human-caused climate change” more? It felt like it was in every paragraph.

July 2, 2021 7:20 am

“That’s why over 150 fire scientistsincluding us, along with fire officials across the West, are urging people to skip the fireworks this Fourth of July”

Only 150 you say? Time to ring around the lawyers to get the numbers up for a half decent deputation of doomsters bedwetters and usual suspects-
New Zealand lawyers sue climate change body over alleged failure to meet targets (msn.com)

Bruce Cobb
July 2, 2021 7:28 am

Hmmmm, so what do the earth, air, and water scientists say? Good to cover all bases.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
July 2, 2021 4:33 pm


Yeah I wondered what a fire scientist is.

Robert Alfred Taylor
Reply to  Rich Davis
July 2, 2021 4:59 pm

One in Hell?

Rich Davis
Reply to  Robert Alfred Taylor
July 2, 2021 7:14 pm


Rich T.
July 2, 2021 7:46 am

The BS starts again. Let’s ruin your holiday. First step in managing fire season is to control the amount of fuel to burn. NOT DONE!!!. Then there is the loonies going to burn down the west in order to save it. They did catch plenty of people setting fires during fire season. Adjust the data to scare more people. https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/05/13/caught-inconvenient-u-s-wildfire-data-has-been-disappeared-by-national-interagency-fire-center-nifc_fire/. As for common sense, “Non to see here”. Just repeat the mantra “Humans are burning down the world”. Same in Aus. Correct fire management has be in print since forever. But ignored to save Mother Earth. Just look at California since the 70″s

Rich T.
July 2, 2021 8:14 am

Was looking for this page. https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/05/24/fact-checking-the-wildfire-climate-link/ . As for uncharted territory my ___. Even the IPCC says it isn’t happening. Also when the genius’s in Cali drain the full dams down to alarming levels in a year for what !.

July 2, 2021 8:17 am

Over 150 fire scientists urge the US West: Skip the fireworks this record-dry 4th of July

Kinda common-sense…..

Last edited 1 year ago by beng135
July 2, 2021 8:22 am

Fireworks have been set off since the first settlements and have been on the 4th to celebrated Independence Day. There is an ongoing attempt to wipe out patriotism and the celebration of independence. Instead the government will celebrate it for you.

Maybe there are more fires on the 4th because it is vacation season and more people are out and around on the 4th.

Jeffery P
July 2, 2021 8:44 am

Many local jurisdictions routinely forbid fireworks if the local conditions are very dry. Overall, a good idea to ban non-permitted fireworks for the western US. But local conditions vary, even if the overall area is in a drought. I lived in Nevada and their are many parts of the Mojave Desert that have so little vegetation there is no fuel for fire. Plenty of dry lake beds.

Then again, not many people live near dry lake beds.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Jeffery P
July 2, 2021 9:53 am

It’s impossible to effectively ban non-permitted fireworks (doesn’t non-permitted mean banned?) when all of the Indian reservations sell them. Oh, I forgot, Indians are good caretakers of nature…

July 2, 2021 9:41 am

Is there a peer reviewed double blind study that backs up these “scientists”?

July 2, 2021 9:43 am

Hah. How are they going to get people to “skip the fireworks”? I live in Colorado Springs. Fireworks are illegal here (even sparklers), with hefty fines. Despite this, Fourth of July always sounds like WW III here, from all the illegal fireworks. This happens even during years of severe drought. Fortunately this year, we are receiving moderate to heavy rains on a daily basis. When I walk in our grass, it goes, “squish, squish, squish”.

July 2, 2021 9:47 am

Not likely to happen in Riverside CA, where they have an annual tradition of gathering to “watch the mountain burn”.

Gary Pearse
July 2, 2021 10:38 am

Fair enough on the message, but “Over 150 fire scientists”!!!

Science has not only suffered from the “dumbing down” in general, but the multiplication of asterisked PhDs in micro specialties and technician fields. An example from a few years ago, an Ozzie clisci got his PhD for a thesis critiquing the HadCrut temperature series. Where is the beef for lofty science in this?

July 2, 2021 12:27 pm

What in the world is a fire scientist?

Come on Man. Its the same triangle it always was; ignition temperature, fuel and air.

Adam Gallon
July 2, 2021 12:54 pm

You’d need to be pretty stupid to light fireworks in drought conditions. Ah, it is Americans.

Gunga Din
July 2, 2021 6:28 pm

When I was a kid the on the 4th at our house fireworks were “an event”. The relatives all came in to be a part of it. (Acres of bulldozed area for new houses behind us. Then the developer switched to a new area near us to develop for a few years.)
But one year when I was in grade school, Dad called it off. Severe drought. They were calling for high school kids to volunteer to put out grass fires in a local park.

So, for those of living in dried up areas out West, celebrate the ideals our Nation was founded on but keep the pyrotechnics low and to your own yard … and have a hose handy!

July 2, 2021 10:09 pm

Since many communities run by liberal nannies are not allowing public displays of 4th-of-July fireworks tended by trained pyrotechnicians, the unintended consequence may actually be more fires started by humans buying and setting off their own display who would have otherwise been satisfied to just watch a public fireworks show.

%d bloggers like this:
Verified by MonsterInsights