Fire Basics for Kids

Our Fire Basics section is designed for kids who want to learn more about fire.

Lava starts fires

Lava is one of the ways fires naturally start, such as the Napau Fire did in Hawai'I Volcanoes National Park.

HOT Fire Facts

What do you think or feel when you read those words?

Do you think about a prairie fire, a forest fire, or a fire in sagebrush and scrub? Are you worried, excited or curious? Whatever your response, it is a key fact that wildland fires can help certain ecosystems remain healthy and productive.

Fires have burned across the earth for millions of years and continue to do so today. Evidence of fires that burned in the past exists in petrified trees that lived long ago and have, over many years, turned hard like a rock. Some petrified trees have fossilized charcoal called fusain in their trunks. Fusain shows that the trees were once in the path of a fire. On a living tree, burn marks are called fire scars.

Fires occur naturally with the help of lightning and lava, but people start most fires. Humans start approximately 90 percent of wildland fires! Most times, they start fires accidentally. In some cases, people light fires to harm others or commit fraud. This is called arson. Lightning and lava start the remaining 10 percent of wildland fires.

Did you know that lightning strikes the Earth about 100 times each second or that lightning temperatures can sometimes reach more than 50,000'F (28,000'C)? That’s more than five times hotter than the sun’s surface! Imagine what happens when lightning strikes a field of dry grass.

Lightning starts fires

Lightning can reach temperatures of more than 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit and ignite wildfires on the ground.