Wildfires are getting much more dangerous — Here’s 3 ways to change that

Wildfires have been ravaging communities across the world in recent years, and the devastating effect of these fires is actually getting much worse and more dangerous. With summer just ahead, it’s time to take a look at what’s causing these destructive events and what can be done to reduce the danger.

The Wilderness Society recently published an important article on why we’ve seen such a dramatic increase in wildfires and how to help alleviate them. It all comes down to three causes and three solutions:

1. Climate Change

It should surprise no one that climate change is one of the main drivers of the increase in wildfires. Droughts have grown worse, snowpack has decreased, and that has led to more intense and more frequent fires, especially those caused by lightning strikes.

As the Wilderness Society notes about California, which as seen the biggest increase in wildfires:

“Fifteen of the 20 biggest fires in the state’s history have occurred since the year 2000, and under some data projections, big wildfires—covering more than 25,000 acres–could become 50 percent more frequent there by the year 2100.”

Solution:

We have to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and switch ASAP to renewable sources of power, such as wind, solar, and biomass.

2. Development Near Forests and Wetlands

More developments are now encroaching on forests, wetlands, and areas that have long been uninhabited:

“Experts call the areas where development mixes with natural lands the ‘Wildland-Urban Interface,’ representing a swath of cities and towns that is at a much higher risk of destructive wildfire. This is the danger-zone where fires that might otherwise peter out on their own, on lands that used to be far away from people and property, have the potential to do major damage to communities.”

Solution:

Unchecked development needs to be curbed and wild areas should remain wild, as nature intended.

3. Forest Management

For decades the strategy used by most governments has been to try and prevent them (which is almost impossible) and then fight them when they break out. That’s known as “fire suppression,” but as the results show, the policy isn’t working, suggesting that there needs to be other ways to better manage our forests.

Some say that more logging will cut down on the “fuel” — i.e. trees — that lead to fires, but that hasn’t worked, either:

“In traditional logging, the largest, most fire-resistant trees are typically cut down, depleting exactly the parts of the forest that are key to lessening fire threats.”

Solution:

Since we cannot possibly stop all forest fires, we need to learn to manage fire risk. And that means making choices that won’t always be popular:

“Among other things, that means allowing some fires to run their course and burn through sections of forest. While the immediate aftermath might look shocking, these flame-scarred patches can actually act as ‘fire breaks’—essentially speed bumps that will prevent future fires from becoming huge, runaway disasters. Accepting that fire is part of the routine will help inoculate the most sensitive areas from true disasters.”

While wildfires can destroy entire towns in a matter of hours, there are ways they can be controlled and even curtailed if we have the will to do what’s required and face the problem head on.

Featured Image Via U.S. Department of Agriculture

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Andrew Bradford
 

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