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The Wildfire Crisis

Last year, the Dixie Fire burned almost a million acres. It was the second largest fire in California’s history. In 2020, wildfires swept across 10 million acres in the western US, killing dozens, destroying 10,000 structures, and causing $15 billion in property damage. Thousands of firefighters risked their lives to fight the fires. The 2019-2020 fire season in Australia was a warning that the problem can worsen worldwide. Almost 50 million acres burned, driving some species to extinction, and emitting 300 million tons of CO2. 

In January 2022, the US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Forest Service Chief Randy Moore announced a 10-year strategy to confront the nation’s wildfire crisis. Proactive wildfire risk mitigation is at the heart of the strategy, which focuses on a plan to increase fuels and forest health treatments in the West by up to four times current levels. Prescribed burns - the controlled use of fire under specified weather conditions to benefit ecosystems - are an important fuel treatment approach because they reduce the future risk of uncontrollable and highly destructive wildfires by reducing dangerous fuel loads.


In a wildfire, it is the vegetation that burns. It is a bit counterintuitive, but a decades-long policy of wildfire suppression has created a wildland fire deficit that increases the risk of severe wildfires during fire season because of an accumulation of fuels. Putting these ecosystems back into balance requires important shifts in policies and public understanding of the role of wildfires.


Nature needs good fire in fire-adapted ecosystems to thrive. We do not need to fear all fires - prescribed fire reduces the risk of damaging wildfires and some naturally occurring wildfires under the right weather conditions can also be allowed to burn safely. 


More Resources

How the Indigenous practice of ‘good fire’ can help our forests thrive

B-Roll-Rxfire-Spring-Florida-MVI 3552

Wade Tract Prescribed Fire

Red Hills Prescribed Fire

Alabama Growing Season Fire Learn n Burn Event

Stoddard Plot Prescribed Burn 2017

SFE Video: Stoddard Plot Prescribed Fire