Human Actions Lead to Wildfires

Human Actions Lead to Wildfires - Montreal in Smoke
Montreal in June 2023 during Canadian Wildfires

In our part of the country, people will remember the summer of 2023 as the “summer of smoke.” Canadian wildfires combined with wind directions have brought heavy smoke into our area. The smoke has been so dense that a friend living in Chicago told me he could not see across the street – a distance of about 20 yards. In the past, we personally experienced California wildfires and saw their massive damage. The message we need to understand is that human actions lead to wildfires.

God designed the natural world to prevent massive fires from developing. When we allow brush to accumulate, lightning, human carelessness, or arson starts a fire, it will explode into a conflagration of massive proportions. The role of grazing animals is one way the natural world has been designed to prevent these huge fires.

Ireland is a rainy country, but in 2021, wildfires burned near Dublin for six weeks. The fuel for those explosive fires is a flowering plant called gorse. It grows in dense thickets and is highly flammable when it dries in late summer. The removal of an indigenous goat breed known as old Irish goats allowed the heathland to become overgrown. The result was annual fire outbreaks.

By introducing the old Irish goats back to the area
where the gorse grows, the plant biomass is no longer a fuel source for the fires. An organization called the “Old Irish Goat Society” (OIGS) has been involved in a three-year project to reintroduce the endangered goat breed into areas suffering the threat of wildfires. One obvious risk in today’s world is that the goats will also eat desirable plants. In the past, carnivores prevented that from happening by limiting goat populations. The OIGS prevents that problem by equipping the goats with GPS colors that set off an alarm when the goats wander too far.

God built into the creation a variety of means of preventing wildfires. Once again, human actions lead to wildfires by altering the original system, which included grazing animals. Yellowstone National Park has similar results with elk herds. We must learn to allow the controlling agents that God built into the original system.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: “Meet the Firefighting Goats of Dublin” in Discover magazine for July/August 2023, pages 10-11.