CityLab from The Atlantic magazine had an interesting story this week about how the South manages wildfires and how California could benefit from our experience. The basic difference is that the South uses controlled burns to undergrowth using low-intensity flames along carefully planned control lines. In the West, historically all fire has been suppressed, leaving to massive accumulations of brush and dry fuel which can make the fires there worse.
Of course, the climates of the South and of the West are quite different, and that has to be taken into account when advocating for more controlled burns The story says, “But it’s no simple directive to set fire to more land. According to Tripp, management goals and environmental limitations are different in every forest range. The windows for prescribed burning—in terms of humidity, wind, temperature, and air quality requirements—are always shifting. In general, they are narrower and less frequent in California’s drier ecosystems than they are in the humid Southeast. Human safety remains the primary focus of California wildfire agencies, and with more and more people moving closer to wilderness areas, it can be risky to burn.”
Still, prescribed burns, when done carefully, can be a good way to reduce fuel and help reduce the size and strength of wildfires that do occur.