George Wuerthner, who wrote the essay below, is the editor of Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy published by Island Press. He has 33 other books on natural history and ecological topics. This essay is a reflection on the current fire season compared to the past and what should be done.
Wildfires in the West: Myths and Realities-
With most science, it takes a while for the latest research and observations to be published, and then be assimilated into the public consciousness. Typically new science does not entirely invalidate the old ideas, but provides new insights and nuances. I see that happening now with fire ecology and how fire issues are reported in the media.
One of the frequently repeated “truths” is that fires are more “destructive” than in the past due to fire suppression. By putting out fires, we are told, we have contributed to higher fuel loads in our woodlands that is the cause of the large blazes we seem to be experiencing around the West.
But like any scientific fact, the more we know, the more we understand how little we really understand. While fuels are important to any blaze, the latest research is suggesting that weather/climatic conditions rather than fuels drive large blazes. In other words, you can have all the fuel in the world, but if it’s not dry enough, you won’t get a large blaze. Read the rest of this entry »