Wildfire is a naturally occurring part of the environment. While we often think of wildfires as being "bad", it is just one way of nature eliminating dead vegetation - sort of an environmental house-cleaning. However, as humans settled this country and began clearing land and building homes, roads, railroads, and campgrounds, new artificial causes of wildfire arrived on the scene.
Typically Michigan residents will guess that smoking and lightning are the two most common causes of wildfire. However, the number of wildfires caused by smoking and lightning generally cause less than 5 percent of all Michigan wildfires. As mentioned earlier, most wildfires in Michigan are caused by people burning debris. However, wildfires are also caused by vehicle exhaust, sparks from trains and heavy equipment, camping, smoking, arson and lightning. A breakdown of Michigan wildfire causes is posted on the MDNR website.
Causes of wildfires will vary from state to state. For example, in Florida, approximately half of all wildfires are ignited by lightning, while in Michigan only about 2 percent are caused by lightning. These variations are due to climate, vegetation, topography, and weather.