2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Fewer smokers. Fewer wildfires. Are they related?

Published: April 24, 2013, 12:38 pm, by Ryan Handy

Since 1971, adult smoking has decreased. So has the instance of wildfires in our national forests (so a U.S. Forest Service study says).

The question is: Are the two related?

According to a recent U.S. Forest Service study on wildfire ignitions, there seems to be a correlation between the two.

Smoking vs. Wildfire

The number of smoking-caused fires has dropped from 991 in the 1970s to 97 per year in the 2000s, the report said.

“One possible explanation for the observed trend in the number of smoking-caused wildfires–though not examined in any study of wildfires as far as we know–could be the falling rate of tobacco use,” the report said.

The report also lists common causes of wildfire–and while lightning strikes are at the top of the list, smoking and campfires are the second and third most frequent causes. ¬†Railroads through national forest lands are also on the list.

“Humans directly or indirectly ignite most wildfires in the United States, and these wildfires more often occur near values at risk,” the report said.

The cause of the Waldo Canyon fire has not yet been explained by authorities–all we know is that it was human caused.