Wildfires have always been a natural part of Earth's ecosystem to maintain landscapes and regenerate soil nutrients but fires are changing in a shifting climate. Hotter and drier conditions are enhancing wildfires and outpacing the environment's ability to bounce back. The most destructive and widespread wildfires require more resources to fight and are becoming noticeable enough to be given a new name: megafires.
Megafires are officially defined by the U.S. Interagency Fire Center as any fire that burns more than 100 thousand acres of land. Though this term also colloquially refers to more intense wildfires that have arisen from a variety of causes. The changing climate is certainly fueling these flames as drought lasts longer and hotter temperatures combine for a better environment for flames to grow. But humans are playing another large part in the ways we interact with fire landscapes. Urban sprawl is becoming more common as populations shift to larger cities, placing homes in terrain that is ripe for fire development. When fires begin in these suburban regions they spread efficiently as they burn through modern flammable homes.
These megafires are stoking an interesting trend where fire occurrences have been dropping in recent years, though more acreage is still burned. Despite declining individual amounts of wildfires, the scope of megafires is able to outperform and still bring more destruction.