We’ve talked about people who are doing fuel treatments successfully (the watershed examples here and here). But in some parts of the country, as we will see in future posts, it is really really difficult to do, for a variety of reasons we’ll explore. As folks have described to me some of the difficulties, I’ve asked them “why don’t we just give up with prescribed burning and vegetation treatments? and stick to Firewise + Suppression alone?”. It’s so… hard…
The Forest Service says they want to put more fire on the landscape, but they are not aligned (in at least some areas) to produce those results, other than through WFU. Perhaps EPA is not aligned to produce those results, and so on. As I’ve asked fire scientists, they tend to say things like:
1. You are thereby putting all the pressure on suppression folks, and not giving them areas that can help them. You are removing a key tool from their toolkit.
2. Wildfires can have negative impacts on infrastructure, species, watersheds, people and so on, and..
3. Controlled burns can produce reduction in fuels, plus conditions things for fire-dependent species with fewer (different) risks.
Here’s how Washington Prescribed Fire Council put it:
Rediscover Prescribed Fire
Prescribed fire is the planned, professional application of fire in the right place, at the right time. It is a safe, effective process that has been sidelined for the last 100 years as we suppressed wildfire on a state and national level.
Fire suppression was intended to keep people safer and industry thriving, but over time, has actually resulted in the reverse: unprecedented forest density, stockpiled fuels, and diseased, degraded forests that are more likely to burn hot, fast and out of control. Recent wildfires have been especially devastating for Washington: lost lives, lost homes, shuttered businesses, millions and millions spent.
There has to be a better way, and there is. It’s time to embrace prescribed fire.
Here’s Calfire’s comprehensive list again:
Reduction of conflagration fires.
Optimization of soil and water productivity.
Protection and improvement of intrinsic floral and faunal values.
Reduce the number and intensity of large, damaging wildfires with corresponding savings of suppression costs.
Increase public safety.
Increase water quantity and maintain water quality from managed watersheds.
Decrease the potential for damage from flooding and siltation.
Protect and improve soil productivity, and decrease erosion over the long term.
Improve wildlife and fisheries habitat.
Improve oak woodlands through fire management and regeneration.
Establish and maintain desired plant communities.
Propagate rare or endangered species of plants, which are fire dependent.
Improve air quality over the long term.
Improve forage and browse for livestock.
Increase opportunities for recreation and improve scenic vistas.
Decrease the risk to firefighters and other responders during wildland fires.
Provide training opportunities for personnel in incident organization, operations, fire behavior, firing methods and effects of weather influences.
So before we go on, for the reasons outlined here (and other reasons you might add or rephrase) do you agree that it is important to increase (embrace) prescribed burning? Why or why not?