◊ Suppressing wildfires that don’t threaten structures rather than controlling them and allowing them to burn up accumulated undergrowth, has been an accepted practice for over 100 years. However, it increases the accumulation of forest fuel, so that when fires DO break out in those areas, they become much worse.
◊ A variety of fire prevention methods are needed. Fire prevention methods that work in forests (thinning trees) do NOT work in chaparral areas like California. Thinning chaparral removes fire resistant native plants, encourages the growth of non-native flammable grasses, and makes areas MORE prone to large fires. Live Science, 1/14/13. Oskin, Becky. “Fighting Fires – You’re doing it wrong”
SUMMARY The current trend of hotter, drier weather, combined with growing population density in high-risk fire areas, has created more potential situations for wildfires. A handful of common sense steps could greatly reduce fire risk. The most proven methods for reducing large wildfires (thinning forests, saving fire-resistant native plants in chaparral areas, and controlled burns) are not widely practiced because the federal government continues to primarily fund suppression rather than prevention.
Increased housing development in high-risk fire areas necessitates tighter fire laws. For example, creating much wider fire breaks around structures, and planting those fire breaks with fire-resistant native plants rather than grasses. Fire prevention strategies need to be adapted to match the eco-system of the areas being protected. Maintaining, rather than removing chaparral would be a step in the right direction. The risks of controlled burns need to be put into perspective with the much greater risks of allowing decades of extra forest fuel to accumulate. The McCain Senate bill S.508 needs to be approved so that the US Forest Service will be able to fund more fire prevention. The federal government should begin a nationwide dialogue with the media: educating them about fire science, and communicating to them their responsibility in providing factual, rather than sensationalized reporting.