These seemingly destructive forces of flame and ash are part of the natural course of nature. Every couple centuries, an ecosystem must cleanse itself of brush and other excess. It’s part of a cycle—not unlike the ebb and flow of temperature trends that many people use to explain global climate change. Plus, the burning process enriches the soil of the forest to supplement growth, and a large chunk of plant species only release their seeds under conditions of extreme heat like in a wildfire.
So, when people risk their lives to fight these wildfires and save neighborhoods, are they actually inhibiting the nature around them at the same time. The answer is yes—because they’re using brominated flame retardants (a mixture of harmful man-made chemicals containing bromine that have been banned in the European Union).These modern methods of fighting wildfires not only kill off a large percentage of the ecosystem’s plant and animal life, like the fire itself, but also have long-term side effects on the soil quality unlike a one-time scorch through.
According to Olivia Gieger’s article on WellesleyGreenPages, “These chemicals in flame retardants, known as Firemaster 550, can often reach areas unaffected by fires and harm the animals there. The US National Library of medicine conducted multiple tests on rats and other small animals showing that animals exposed to the chemicals in brominated flame retardant suffered more health problems then rats unexposed to the chemicals. The results show that rats who ate the chemicals gained significantly more weight than those who didn’t, and also had trouble with the level of thyroid hormones in the animals. Young rats experienced trouble developing because the chemicals blocked or mimicked natural hormones in their body.”