Percent of the world’s fires by region, as detected by MODIS satellites from 2001-2006. Credit: NASA

Topic: Climate change Type: Essay

It’s Time to Tackle Global Fire Issues

Authors: Wendy Fulks

Photo: Station Fire Plume. Photo credit: Mike Shaffer

Photo: Station Fire Plume. Photo credit: Mike Shaffer

My good friend and colleague Mary Huffman recently published an article in Fire Ecology in which she makes some proposals for addressing our planet’s inextricably linked fire- and climate change issues. While directed primarily at fire ecologists, Mary’s article contains some information and insights that should be of interest to FAC practitioners. The paper includes numerous case studies from around the world, including three from the western United States that are FAC Learning Network pilot communities.

The following statements sum up the situation well:

“In the past, each fire was local, affecting primarily local ecosystems and communities. Today, every fire is also the world’s fire, linked to climate change feedback loops.”

“When fires keep escaping our grasp, we invest in more firefighters, more airplanes, stricter rules, and stronger tactics. Unfortunately, the uncertainties inherent in managing ecological systems eventually bring unintended consequences, like the tree-thickened forests in the western US that burn over larger areas with higher severity.”

Mary puts forth some ideas about where to focus our attention globally, including peatlands and places where people depend on fire for survival. She also focuses on some specific solutions (in this instance for ponderosa pine forests and similar ecosystems):

Percent of the world’s fires by region, as detected by MODIS satellites from 2001-2006. Credit: NASA

Percent of the world’s fires by region, as detected by MODIS satellites from 2001-2006. Credit: NASA

“…. move swiftly with partners to expand models of fire-adapted communities where people can live safely with fire. Second, we must purposely and repeatedly put fire into these woods when burning conditions are moderate. Finally, to be realistic, we must also develop science-based programs to address the needs of severely burned landscapes.”

I’m glad she included the words “move swiftly” because, as we all know, time is of the essence for those of us dealing with the wildland-urban interface. And that’s exactly why we started this Network, to “accelerate the adoption of FAC concepts.”

One thought on “It’s Time to Tackle Global Fire Issues”

  1. Bill Trimarco says:

    This is an excellent article. The facts and concepts presented are useful tools that those of us engaged with wildfire education and outreach can readily use when engaging with the public. Thanks for getting this out to the masses.

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