Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Wildfires...Burn Earlier and Longer

Fire burning near Phoenix, AZ in March.  Photo: Heber-Overgaard Fire District

Fires, once largely confined to a single season, have become a continual threat in some places, burning earlier and later in the year, in the United States and abroad.  A recent NY Times article addresses the growing issues affecting wildland fire in the U.S. 

Climate change is one of the leading culprits.  Drier winters mean less moisture on the land, and warmer springs are pulling the moisture into the air more quickly, turning shrubs, brush and grass into kindling.  Decades of aggressive fire fighting policies have aggravated the problem - today's forests are not just parched; they are overgrown. 

Year-round fire seasons have become a reality in many western states.  Research indicates that fire season has lengthened by as much as 45 to 78 days across the West.

"We take our job to protect the public seriously, and recently, the job has become increasingly difficult due to the effects of climate change, chronic droughts and a constrained budget environment in Washington," Tom Vilsack, USDA Sectretray said in a statement, noting that seven firefighters died and 4,500 homes burned in wildfires in 2015.

The issue has led to disagreements among many fire ecologists about how best to attack the problem.  Some argue that fires should be left to take their natural course and clean up the forest floor.  But that approach has run into a challenge: more and more people are moving into the wild lands. 

Read the full article here.

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