U.S. Forest Service’s Quest to Beat Future Fires

As most of you Californians know, our state has been ravaged by fires for the past few years. Some are accidentally started by people, and some are naturally occurring.

The U.S. Forest Service is taking no days off in their fight to understand, predict and prevent wildfires. Greece, Sweden and Siberia have also been ‘hotspots’ for woodland fires, in the past year, and California has had the largest wildfire on record. 

Mark Finney, A USFS Research Forester, focuses on the study of fire spread in deep and discontinuous fuel beds, which has promise for understanding many of the fire behaviors that we do not understand and cannot predict today. Another expression of Finney’s research includes fire simulation for purposes of fire risk assessment, which has been done in direct support of the development of two major fire management systems (WFDSS and FPA).

p06m1nrp.jpgThe Carr Fire of July and August 2018 destroyed 230,000 acres of California. (Credit: Terray Sylvester/Getty Images)

Finney and his team actually go out into the brush and start fires. This may seem ironic, but these fires are controlled and for research purposes. His team is studying how flames leap from one branch to another, the duration of the burn in one area, how they burn in different vegetations and the type of heat exchange occurring. 

The USFS takes precautionary measures, such as fire barriers, to ensure that these studies don’t get out of control.

p06m1n0t.jpgTest fires by the U.S. Forest Service. (Credit: Ian Grob/US Forest Service)

Although fires are a natural occurrence, over 80% of U.S. wildfires are started accidentally by people. 

In a FutureNow article by BBC, Dominique Bachelet, a climate scientist from Oregon State University, had this to say about our current problems with fire:

Fire is a natural part of these ecosystems, but the incidence and character of recent fires has undoubtedly been shaped by human activity. “People,” says Bachelet, “should expect fire.”

In a warmer world, the inferno seems increasingly capable of threatening our way of life, of bearing down as it so often does, on our towns and our cities. We can’t stop fire in its tracks. Neither will we ever be able to perfectly predict each blaze before it happens. But maybe we can get better at managing fire – and better at getting out of its way.

Here’s a link to the BBC article where you can learn more about the fire research:


By Gabriel Wahl of e3


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