Better forest management won't end wildfires, but it can reduce the risks – here's how

Better forest management won't end wildfires, but it can reduce the risks – here's how
Satellite image of smoke from the Camp and Woolsey fires on Nov. 9, 2018. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

President Donald Trump's recent comments blaming forest managers for catastrophic California wildfires have been met with outrage and ridicule from the wildland fire and forestry community. Not only were these remarks insensitive to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in California – they also reflected a muddled understanding of the interactions between wildfire and forest management.

As scientists who study forest policy and community-based collaboration, here is how we understand this relationship.

Fire is a natural hazard

In cases like the Camp Fire in Northern California, where low humidity, dry vegetation, hot temperatures and high winds have created extreme fire conditions, there is little that homeowners, forest landowners or land managers can do to affect fire behavior. Fire is a natural hazard, like earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes. It is unique in that it can develop with little warning and last for weeks or even months.

Like other natural hazards, wildfire cannot fully be prevented. However, it is not only possible but urgent to prepare for it, and to get people out of harm's way when conditions are life-threatening.

It is also increasingly clear that climate change is making these kinds of fires more likely by creating longer fire seasons and hotter and drier conditions. As Toddi Steelman, a prominent fire scientist at Duke University, recently tweeted, "We are only kidding ourselves if we don't think [a disaster like the Camp Fire] could happen again tomorrow. All the conditions point to more of this in our future."

The National Fire Protection Association explains how homeowners can help prevent their houses from igniting during wildfires.
Preparing for the inevitable

Despite this reality, there are ways to prepare for fire. During less extreme fire events, actions by homeowners can reduce the risk that their houses will burn down. By clearing brush around homes, changing ventilation systems, keeping roofs and gutters free of leaf litter and moving wood piles, owners can reduce the likelihood that their houses will ignite and create safe spaces for fighters to defend their homes.

Local governments also must continue to improve plans, alert systems and resources for people when it's time to evacuate. Events in California have shown that time can be extremely limited, and as with other natural disasters, poor and disadvantaged individuals who have limited resources to get to safety will often suffer most. More can be done to prepare to evacuate towns and get information to people rapidly.

Many also have expressed concern about housing growth in places where homes are in close proximity to forestlands that can burn – the area known as the wildland-urban interface. However, many of the most tragic fire events in California, including this year's fires and those in Napa County in 2017, occurred in urban and suburban areas. Land use planning and improved housing codes, both of which require local initiative, have a role to play in reducing home loss, but a growing number of people will continue to live in areas with significant fire risk in the future.

The role of forest management

Many ecologists say that in some places, – which includes thinning brush and small trees and burning under the right weather conditions – can help reduce unwanted effects when wildfires occur. This is especially true at lower elevations and in drier forests, like the ponderosa pine forests of the Southwest.

Across the country, , community-based partners and environmental groups are working together to thin trees and increase use of prescribed burning, in which managers intentionally ignite fires under less extreme conditions. Although it may seem counterintuitive, allowing more natural fire to burn under less extreme conditions, instead of suppressing every blaze, also is important.

Better forest management won't end wildfires, but it can reduce the risks – here's how
Land managers use prescribed burns to keep flammable fuel loads from building up. Credit: Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services

But thinning and prescribed fire won't make a difference in all ecosystems, and there are limitations to land management. For example, the Woolsey Fire in Malibu, which now is almost fully contained but has destroyed 1,500 structures and killed three people, is in non-forested shrub lands, where these techniques are unlikely to make a difference. And in high-elevation forests, many scientists say management activities like thinning are inappropriate because fires in these forests are driven more by weather conditions than fuel loads.

There is also disagreement about the value of thinning, particularly if it is not followed by prescribed fire, for changing fire behavior. And efforts to thin and burn in forests may not have any impact on fire behavior under extreme weather conditions.

Prioritizing the right work

The United States has vast fire-prone forested ecosystems. Federal and state agencies and private forest owners cannot possibly manage them all for fire, nor should they aim to. In our view, the right approach is to make efforts in targeted locations, with an increased focus on reducing fuels near communities and in other key areas such as municipal watersheds.

In our research, we have found that improved policies and partnerships are essential for restoring forest conditions and conducting prescribed fires. Policies that promote collaboration allow local partners to share resources and find agreement about how to tackle complex fire management issues with local support.

It is also important to focus funding investments on priority landscapes. Forest management resources are limited, so it is critical that the , states, counties and community members work together to implement targeted solutions.

Another key point is that most thinning and other fire hazard reduction does not typically yield trees and other byproducts with economic value. This makes the work expensive. The most valuable timber in the United States typically is not in places with the highest fire hazard, and more commercial logging is not going to stop fires. A lot of good work has already been planned, but more funding and capacity will be needed to get it done.

Solutions for reducing wildfire risk are not always intuitive. They vary from one location to another, and conditions are ever-changing. In the face of growing risk and unprecedented conditions, everyone involved in fire management must recognize the inherent complexity of responding to fire, and work together with communities, firefighters and land managers to find answers that are tailored to different places.


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How fierce fall and winter winds fuel California fires

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Nov 20, 2018
Also, buildings in areas with fire risk should have non-flammable exteriors (metal/ceramic roofs, brick/stucco/concrete walls, etc.) so they can't easily be set afire by blown embers. Roads need to be sufficient for an evacuation on short notice. Perhaps fire shelters??

Nov 20, 2018
The video is definitely worth a watch. It points out that debris (leaf litter, pine needles) near/on the house can be the material that gets ignited by embers and catches the house on fire. Even a broom left leaning against a house or furniture with flammable pillows on a porch can lead to the destruction of the house.

Nov 20, 2018
1) "Better forest management won't end wildfires, but it can reduce the risks..."

2) President Donald Trump's recent comments blaming forest managers for catastrophic California wildfires have been met with outrage and ridicule from the wildland fire and forestry community. Not only were these remarks insensitive to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in California – they also reflected a muddled understanding of the interactions between wildfire and forest management."

-Orwell called this doublespeak. For instance it leads to irrational statements like:

"low humidity, dry vegetation, hot temperatures and high winds have created extreme fire conditions, there is little that homeowners, forest landowners or land managers can do to affect fire behavior."

-Well they could remove the vegetation before it dries out couldnt they?
cont>

Nov 20, 2018
It also leads greenie antitrumpers to ignore facts like

"interior Secretary Ryan Zinke blamed "environmental radicals" for the California wildfires that have killed at least 77 people, saying they stop forest management practices that could have prevented the fires."

-Forests naturally burn once in awhile. Thats how they clean themselves. In looking at pictures of these fires you might note that the treetops had little burn damage.

Greenie antitrumpers are now living in walmart parking lots because they allow their brains to harbor irrational dichotomies without resolving them.

Your dome houses and cabins burnt because you didnt think the forest wouldnt clean up its own garbage, and you didnt think you had to do it yourself.

That may sound insensitive. But neither otto nor trump are the source of your current dilemma.

YOU are.

"but more funding and capacity will be needed to get it done"

-Youre being robbed.

Nov 21, 2018
"[Trump's] exactly right.

"Just ask California officials. Two months ago, the state legislature enacted a measure that would expedite the removal of dead trees and use "prescribed burns" to thin forests. In other words: the very same reforms that Trump is now being mocked for proposing. The September law followed a Gov. Jerry Brown executive order earlier this year that also called for "controlled fires" to improve forest health."

-So now liberal politics is killing Californians and burning their homes. Just like illegals are assaulting them and draining their tax money.

Nov 21, 2018
So we're gonna all go out and rake the forests now?

Teh stoopit it burnz.

Nov 21, 2018
"Forest organic debris includes
tree limbs, boles (trunks), needles,
leaves, snags, and other dead
organic materials. It ranges in
amount and composition depending
on a forest's history, tree species,
condition, and age. In the Inland
Northwest (Idaho, western
Montana, eastern Oregon, and
eastern Washington) there is a lot
of discussion and concern about
removing organic debris from
forests.

"Common reasons for removing
organic debris include reducing
bark beetle hazard, preparing a site
for tree planting, harvesting forest
biomass for energy, and reducing
fire risk. For example, it is critical
to remove organic debris within 100
feet around homes and structures
to reduce fire risk...

"Historically, wildfire helped
determine the amount of fine and
coarse woody debris in forests."
Cont>

Nov 21, 2018
"Fine organic debris poses the
greatest fire hazard because it dries
rapidly, ignites readily, and burns
quickly and intensely, making fires
running through it hard to control.
Fire risk assessment is based prima-
rily on the amount, arrangement, and
depth of fine organic debris created
by a timber harvest or thinning... Slash can be piled with dozers or
tractors with rakes (brush blades)
https://youtu.be/nKOHfh36sQA
https://youtu.be/Pj6Ro3kSp34
https://youtu.be/la6iLKiUc0A
https://youtu.be/b2j4cpOm1Ts
Pinestraw rake
https://youtu.be/iy-oBmGutUA

-Plenty of options for removing combustibles from forest floors.

See this is what happens when you let your dweebish buds think for you. You hear 'rake' and you think of 1000s of inmates out there with hand rakes.

We have machines to do these things now yes?

Nov 21, 2018
Trump nonsense = RakeNews

The world is laughing at him and the ongoing self humiliation of America.

It would take 125,000 man years per year to "rake" California's susceptible forests, and of course anyone who has ever been in a real fotest knows that they can't be "raked".

Even children under 8 years old know that raking doesn't make fuel go away. But not America's dumb as dirt president. LOL!

Like virtually all Republicans - and Otto... Trump is numerically illiterate, and ignorant to the core.


Nov 21, 2018
Ya, you rake away those tree stumps and fallen logs there Otto.

Hahahahahahahahahahahah......... MORON.

"interior Secretary Ryan Zinke" - RakeNews

In 2008, Zinke stated that he "support[s] increased coal production for electrical generation.

In 2013, Zinke hosted a radio show in which he engaged with and promoted fringe conspiratorial views, including birtherism (the contention that Barack Obama was not born in the United States). Zinke said on the radio show that he was not sure whether Obama was a foreign citizen and called on Obama to release his college transcripts.

During the Republican primary, Zinke attracted attention for referring to Hillary Rodham Clinton as "the real enemy" and the "anti-Christ.

Zinke frequently voted in opposition to environmentalists on issues including coal extraction and oil and gas drilling.[51] He received a 4 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters


Nov 21, 2018
On his first full day in office, Zinke rescinded the policy implemented on January 19, 2017, the last day of the Obama administration, by outgoing Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Daniel M. Ashe that banned the use of lead bullets and lead fishing tackle in national wildlife refuges.

In December 2017, Trump signed executive proclamations that reduced Bears Ears National Monument by 85% and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by almost 46%. These moves prompted several legal challenges. One day later, Zinke issued a report recommending that Trump also shrink two more national monuments—Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada and Cascade–Siskiyou National Monument in Oregon. Zinke also recommended changes to the management of six other national monuments.

Nov 21, 2018
Like all liberals the environmentalists deny their responsibility for anything. They want the woods to remain 100% wild yet cry when they burn. Either one lets the forests burn as nature intended or you build roads and firebreaks while instituting prescribed burns.

Even the Indians managed the forests with prescribed burns.

https://www.iceag...petence/

People even need permits to remove brush and debris from their own land in California.

This is just another example of the failures of a progressive government.

Nov 21, 2018
These changes were welcomed by Republicans such as Congressman Rob Bishop, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, but condemned by Democrats and environmentalist groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club.[79][80]

After The New York Times took Zinke's Interior Department to court, it won and got 25,000 documents, of which 4,500 pages were related to Zinke's multi-monument review, and which showed the administration set out to increase coal, oil and gas mining access.

In March 2018, the Associated Press reported that the Interior Department spent approximately $139,000 to upgrade three sets of double-doors in Zinke's office.

As of October 30, 2018, Zinke has been referred to the Justice department for investigation by his own agency's office of Inspector General for the abuse of government funds, the unnecessary use of private jets to attend political events and other kinds of political corruption.

Nov 21, 2018
HAHa ''The stupid it burns eh ?''

In this case and in the future it literally does and will .
The new homes that will be built will be the same flamable ones they build now , and yes altering
the fire based ecosystem you choose to live in is a BIG job.

Nov 21, 2018
In June 2017, Zinke called for the elimination of 4,000 jobs from the Interior Department and supported the White House proposal to cut the department's budget by 13.4%. The same month, Zinke ordered 50 Interior members of the Senior Executive Service to be reassigned, "forcing many into jobs for which they had little experience and that were in different locations." The scope of the move was unusual. One reassigned Interior senior executive, scientist Joel Clement, published an op-ed in the Washington Post saying that the reassignment was retaliation against him "for speaking out publicly about the dangers that climate change poses to Alaska Native communities."] The moves prompted the Interior Departments's Office of Inspector General to launch a probe.

Nov 21, 2018
In 2017, Zinke gave a speech to the National Petroleum Council which said that one-third of Interior Department employees were disloyal to Trump and that "I got 30 percent of the crew that's not loyal to the flag.

In 2018, Zinke proposed budget cuts to the Interior Department for fiscal year 2019, mostly from the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Geological Survey. Zinke's proposed budget would also cut the Land and Water Conservation Fund to $8 million (from $425 million in 2018)

https://www.newsw...s-844246

Nov 21, 2018
"They want the woods to remain 100% wild yet cry when they burn." - MR166

Odd. I keep hearing environmentalists saying that these fires are natural.

MR166 is lying as usual.


Nov 21, 2018
Ya, you rake away those tree stumps and fallen logs there Otto.

Hahahahahahahahahahahah......... MORON

"Coarse woody debris is not asmuch of a fire risk and in someareas, you can legally leave as muchof it as you like."

-So what else dont you know? Hard to tell with professional trolls like vendicar decarian.

"Wow.... we have a guy using the name Scott Nudds (Scott Douglas)
> (Vendicar Decarian etc. etc. )
> posting to the alt.global-warming group, and possibly others. The
> American that ran away to Canada, working as a janitor at a school in
> Hamilton, Ontario, Canada."

Nov 21, 2018
Even the Indians managed the forests with prescribed burns
Yeah this is how they killed off the dinosaurs.

Nov 23, 2018
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