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Most Outrageous Ways People Started Wildfires

Why the countdown?

Wildfires can be difficult to manage during drought or fire season, and they can become dangerous and destructive. Yet, 84% of all wildfires in the United States were ignited by humans, and fighting wildfires cost $2 billion dollars every year, according to Smithsonian Magazine. The following fires in the list were ignited in various methods by people, but some of the fires in the list were unintentionally started. Some wildfires were started by arson, and other were ignited as a result of a lack of knowledge on the topic. Few motives behind arson cases were so disturbing and bizarre, so that’s a fair warning. The causes are ranked for most bizarre ways to start wildfires, and the list is intended to show different ways people have started the fires in the United States (and in one case, Israel).

The Countdown

10. Overheated Catalytic Converter

The Ferguson Fire was discovered to be ignited by an overheated catalytic converter inside a vehicle parked over bone dry grass on July 13, 2018, according to Wildfire Today. The unknown vehicle with a hot catalytic converter still remains undiscovered as of today. By the time the cause was revealed, the fire had scorched 96,901 acres before it was fully contained. The moral of the story is: don’t park on dry grass.

9. Worst Time to (accidentally) Get a Flat Tire

The infamous Carr Fire burnt 229,651 acres, killed eight people and unleashed an EF-3 equivalent firenado before it was fully contained on September 4th this year, according to Cal Fire and CNN. The cause was very different from all of other cases on the list because it was purely an accident.  Flat tires are usually minor inconveniences of driving experiences, and they do not normally have an enormous impact. This one was an exception as stated by Sacramento, California news outlet Fox40. The poor couple had a flat tire at the worst possible location and time. When the tire on the trailer got flat, the rim scraped the asphalt causing the sparks to fly out and become what was known as the Carr Fire. Understandingly, the local community sent positive messages to the couple to remind them the large fire was an accident.

8. Baby Gender Reveal

Starting a family is usually an exciting time for expectant parents, and that sometimes includes gender reveal parties to celebrate new babies. Gender reveal parties can occasionally become outlandish, and that was how a  47,000 acre Sawmill Fire in Arizona was ignited back in 2017.  According to a Times Magazine article, the expectant father shot at a target with explosive powder, known as Tannerite, that was supposed to reveal the baby’s gender. The party took place during dry, windy weather. As a result, the couple was fined $220,000 for an outrageous gender reveal stunt that had gone awry. That is why people should not use explosives at parties during drought or fire season.

7. Burning Love Letter

On June 8, 2002, the Hayman Fire in Colorado broke out after a Forest Service worker burnt a letter from her husband in a fire ring in her testimony, according to The Denver Post. By the time it was contained, it scorched 137,760 acres.  The Hayman Fire stood out because at the time, the worker was so upset that she was not thinking straight when she burnt the letter, but some people found that story behind the Hayman Fire questionable.

6. Neighbor Disputes

On June 27, 1990, a long time feud between neighbors resulted in devastating Painted Cave Fire that burned down 427 buildings and 5,000 acres. Yes, I said a feud between neighbors. According to The Tribute article, the man who started it was ordered to pay $2.75 million after his ex-girlfriends testified against him. According to Los Angeles Times, an ex-girlfriend revealed that the man started it to burn out his neighbor, but the fire got out of control. There are better ways to resolve a feud with a neighbor than trying to burn that person out.

5. Rage After Getting Kicked Out by Godfather

*This may be very disturbing to some readers.*

On October 25, 2003, the Old Fire broke, destroying 1003 residential homes and 91,000 acres in the process. Five people died from heart attacks during the fire according to Wildfire Today. Rickie Fowler was responsible for starting the Old Fire  and was charged with murder and arson. He received a death penalty. As stated in Los Angeles Now, Fowler was in a fit of rage when his godfather removed him from house, and he started the fire with another suspect (who was shot and killed a few years later).

4. Glory of Destruction

*This may be very disturbing to some readers.*

In late October 2006, a serial arsonist known as Oyler deliberately started the 41,000 acres Esperanza Fire. Five firefighters were killed in the fire, and the suspect received the death penalty. In a Wildfire Today article, the extremely arrogant arsonist revealed to his cousin that he aimed to cause as much destruction with his fine-tuned skills.

3. Satanic Ritual

According to the National Geographic, a Conservation Biology Institute scientist who researched reports on California wildfires stated that he found a report of a wildfire that was started by satanic ritual. Even though the fire itself was not specified in the article, the mere fact that it was started by satanic ritual was so bizarre that it deserved the number three spot.

2. Burning Poop

According to Gizmodo, the Voltaire Fire in Nevada burned about 500 acres in mid-June this year thanks to a pair of campers burning poop in a hole. Yes, you read this right. Fortunately, the fire didn’t burn down any houses. Next time, bury your poop, not burn it. I placed it at number two because it went viral pretty quickly because it was so baffling and disgusting.

 

Dishonorable Mentions

Political Conflicts

In Israel, multiple wildfires broke out in 2016 while there were some conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians. Around half of the wildfires were likely caused by arson. According to The New York Times, the authorities pointed out that the Jewish extremists had a history of starting wildfires in Palestinian neighborhoods. Also, the Palestinians were blamed for starting wildfires. Given the history and current issues, the wildfires possibly had been contributed by political conflicts between groups.

Shooting Practice

On July 3 this year, Lake Christine Fire erupted in Colorado, according to The Denver Post.  When it was fully contained, 12, 588 acres were scorched.  In another article from 4CBS Denver, the fire was ignited by a couple shooting trace ammunition for target practice at gun range.  A burn ban was in place then, and it was considered very reckless. As a result, the couple faced serious charges, and their actions angered the local community.

Tossing Cigarette

According to a How Stuff Works article, this is a common method for starting wildfires.  However most people don’t imagine the possibility of  causing a massive fire when they toss out cigarettes.

Throwing Fireworks into Wood

Also stated in a How Stuff Works article, unsupervised kids and fireworks are major contributors to wildfires. According to Vice, some teenagers were not known for thinking about long-term consequences of their actions, and that was how roughly how the 50,000 acres Eagle Creek Fire started in Oregon in 2017.  A teenager boy threw a smoke bomb and laughed with his friends.   In the end, the boy was ordered to pay $36 million and do 1,920 hours of community service.

Electric Power Mishap

The 281,000 acres Thomas Fire that started in late 2017 was the largest wildfire in California history behind this year’s Mendocino Complex Fire. According to Santa Barbara Independent, the wildfire had two separate origins, and one of them was most likely resulted from an electrical explosion in a neighborhood. Another possible origin was construction activities near a local campground. Later, the electrical company was sued for not maintaining the power lines well.

Military Training

In 2017, several wildfires simultaneously broke out in southeast Oregon, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting, or OPB.  In the article, the flares used in the military exercises in the area were pointed to as the most likely cause of the wildfires, but Oregon National Guard were not involved in the training. However, other branches share the same airspace for training, including Navy, so the answer still remains unclear.

The Number One (in my opinion) Most Outrageous Cause of Wildfire is…

‘Bringing the Wrath of God’s Judgement’

*This may be very disturbing to some readers.*

Earlier this year, the Holy Fire erupted in California and scorched more than 22,000 acres when Forrest Clark likely started it as mentioned in Los Angles Times.  What was disturbing about it was Clark, the suspect,  sent text messages to local fire chief stating, “The place is going to burn just like you planned.” Also, Clark has a history of participation in various anti-government conspiracy theory groups according to Southern Poverty Law Center. The suspect was a sovereign citizen extremist, and the anti-government ideology promote use violence and terror to get revenge.  In a Newsweek article, Clark had a history of Bible-shaming his gay neighbor and promoting the extreme ideologies. If proven that the Holy Fire was ignited for political or ideological reasons, the Holy Fire might be considered as an act of terrorism. It was placed in the number one spot because of disturbing behaviors and the possibility that it was a terrorist act.

 

 

I am a trained storm spotter, and this blog is meant to be informative about weather-related topics with light humor and commentaries.

About Ivy MacDaniel

I am a sophomore who’s majoring in physics with mathematics minor. I love weather, especially thunderstorms and tornadoes. My hobbies are chess, drawing, and outdoor activities. I am a trained storm spotter.

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