Wildfires: Facts, FAQs, and how to help

A family of five smiles at the camera. Three family members hold donated boots, and three males make the Hawaiian shaka sign with their hands.

Wildfires stand as a relentless force, capable of devastating landscapes and disrupting lives worldwide. From the towering peaks and prairies of North America to the coastal areas of South America to the bushlands of Australia, nearly every terrain on earth is vulnerable to the reach of wildfires.

Learn about the causes and effects of wildfires. Explore resources offered by World Vision to understand wildfires better and discover ways to support people and communities impacted by them.

Wildfires: Facts, FAQs, how to help

Fast facts: Wildfires

  • Wildfires are a natural part of many ecosystems that can be crucial in clearing dead vegetation, promoting new growth, and maintaining biodiversity.
  • While some wildfires start naturally by lightning strikes, nearly 85% of wildfires in the U.S. are caused by human activities such as campfires, burning of debris, discarded cigarettes, or arson.
  • Extreme weather patterns, such as prolonged droughts and altered precipitation patterns, have contributed to increased wildfire frequency and intensity in many regions.
  • Wildfires spread quickly, driven by wind, terrain, and fuel availability, sometimes moving as fast as 14 mph in grasslands and up to 6.7 mph in forests — and they can change direction quickly.
  • Intense wildfires can generate their own weather systems, including thunderclouds called pyrocumulonimbus clouds, capable of producing lightning and fire tornadoes.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

What is a wildfire?

Wildfires, often called forest fires or bushfires, are unintentional fires that ignite and spread rapidly in areas such as forests, grasslands, or prairies. Fueled by dry vegetation and driven by wind, wildfires can grow quickly in size and intensity, posing significant risks to wildlife, natural habitats, and communities.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

What are the primary causes that contribute to wildfires?

Various sources can spark wildfires, including lightning strikes, human activities such as campfires or fireworks, and, occasionally, natural causes like volcanic eruptions. Once ignited, wildfires can be challenging to contain and extinguish, often requiring extensive firefighting efforts involving ground crews, aerial support, and specialized equipment.

Wildfires can have far-reaching impacts, causing environmental destruction, loss of property, displacement of communities, and adverse health effects due to smoke inhalation.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

Where do I find current information and resources on wildfires?

During wildfire season, rely on authoritative sources for emergency information and updates. Check with your state and local fire departments for guidance. Here are some resources for current information on wildfire preparedness:

  • The National Interagency Fire Center and National Interagency Coordination Center: Both offer national statistics and fire updates. They provide up-to-date information on wildland fires, which include wildfires and any non-structure fires that are intentional
  • Inciweb: A comprehensive resource that offers maps, photos, and updates on large-scale fire incidents across all states and agencies
  • Ready.gov: Offers wildfire safety and preparedness messages
  • SmokeyBear.com: Provides educational resources and tips for wildfire prevention and safety
  • Wildfire Action Plan: Created by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the guide outlines action plans and checklists to ensure preparedness for wildfires
  • Firewise USA: Offers resources and guidance for creating fire-prepared communities and reducing wildfire risk

BACK TO QUESTIONS

A volunteer in bright green T-shirt and white sunglasses hands a box of shoes to a passenger in a white vehicle.
A volunteer hands a box of shoes (pictured above) to a person affected by the 2023 Maui fire at an aid distribution organized by World Vision and Pukalani Community Church of the Nazarene. (© 2023 World Vision partner)

Where did World Vision most recently respond to wildfires in the U.S.?

World Vision recently responded to wildfires in the U.S., including the 2024 Texas wildfires and the devastating Maui fires in 2023.

In Texas, World Vision provided immediate assistance as wildfires, including the Smokehouse Creek Fire, swept through the Texas Panhandle, scorching over a million acres. Partnering with the West Texas District Church of the Nazarene, World Vision distributed essential supplies to 1,500 people impacted by the blazes. Items included clean water, diapers, hygiene products, bedding, and more.

In Maui, World Vision swiftly aided affected families through various local partnerships, such as the Pukalani Community Church of the Nazarene, Maui Rescue Mission, and Hawaii Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Assistance has ranged from supporting resource hubs and mobile relief services to providing crisis relief boxes and crucial supplies like food, diapers, hygiene kits, and generators. World Vision remains dedicated to Maui’s long-term recovery efforts, with plans to expand assistance throughout 2024 and beyond.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

How does World Vision respond to disasters in the U.S.?

In the aftermath of devastating wildfires and other disasters in the U.S., World Vision is able to respond immediately, drawing on decades of experience. Our World Vision Storehouse has seven fully staffed warehouses nationwide stocked with prepositioned supplies for when disasters strike.

Our U.S. team works with local organizations, helping deliver immediate aid. Collaborating with over 3,600 U.S. partners, we identify needs, assess damage, and distribute emergency supplies. Our assessment includes pinpointing areas that have been impacted the most where other organizations may not be responding. We often stay for the rebuilding phase, supporting families, churches, and communities even after other organizations have left.

While aiding impacted communities, we invite Pastor Ambassadors to come alongside our response by offering firsthand experience, prayers, guidance, and mentorship.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

How can I help survivors of wildfires and other disasters in the U.S.?

  • Pray: Join us in praying for people impacted by wildfires and devastating emergencies.
  • Give: Your gift can provide emergency relief to children and families affected by disasters like wildfires in the U.S.

BACK TO QUESTIONS

Disaster Relief

View All Stories
A woman carries a baby through a debris-strewn field following a landslide. In the background, men traverse uphill, the collapsed mountain beyond them.

Papua New Guinea landslide: Facts, FAQs, and how to help

Aid workers rush to the scene of devastation after a deadly earthquake in Herat.
From the Field

Explore World Vision’s disaster responses