WHY ARE WILDFIRES INCREASING?

Get more information about what’s causing increases in wildfires.

Some incidence fire is natural — even beneficial — in our forests. We can’t avoid, though, the fact that we’re experiencing more frequent and severe wildfires in Washington and across the West.

As we search for ways to restore balance, it’s important to understand why catastrophic wildfires are becoming the new norm year after year.

"The problem is we’ve taken fire out of the forest system in the past century. If you’re going to suppress fire, you have to figure out some way to mimic its role in forest health.”

— Peter Moulton, Bioenergy Coordinator, Washington State Department of Commerce

Bureaucratic decisions may be laying out the welcome mat for tree-killing pests

Some evidence suggests that well-intentioned but errant decisions to put fires out too soon has led to imbalanced forest environments. The lack of a natural fire cycle can allow invasive tree species to infiltrate a forest and tip it away from a healthy equilibrium. Ultimately, unhealthy trees can become a home to destructive pest infestations — like the bark beetle — that can transform thousands of acres of living forest into dead, dry and standing fuel waiting for the next lightning strike.

Read about bark beetle infestations and wildfire in this report from the Washington Dept. of Natural Resources >>

“Fire is an essential force that has shaped life around the globe, but in many ecosystems today, the role of fire is severely out of balance.”

— The Nature Conservancy

Not all forests are treated equally when it comes to removing excess fuel for fires

We all understand the basic relationship between fire and fuel: more fuel, bigger fire. In wildfires, the fuel is wood, so what is the responsible way to manage fuel stocks, especially in dry forests? How can forward-thinking forest planning help to manage fuel levels and reduce fire hazards? Scientific study has looked at the questions.

Read about work done on fuel treatments in dry forests in this fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Agriculture >>

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