This fire primer is meant for decision makers concerned about forest fires in the American West. Using best science, we address seven fundamental questions related to the ecological importance of large fires and their appropriate management on public lands. Specifically, we examine: (1) what works best for reducing fire risks to homes and firefighters; (2) are large wildland fires an ecological catastrophe as claimed; (3) are fires increasing from historical levels; (4) does forest thinning reduce fire intensity or lower large fire occurrence; (5) how does post-fire logging affect forest rejuvenation and reburn intensity; (6) do insect outbreaks increase fire occurrence or intensity; and (7) how is climate change affecting fire behavior in the West?
The findings presented in this primer are based on hundreds of studies of forest fires in the American West and elsewhere as presented in “The Ecological Importance of Mixed-Severity Fires: Nature’s Phoenix” published by Elsevier, a world-leading provider of scientific, technical and medical information products and services. This primer is particularly timely given the recent passage of HR 2647 in the House and interest in the Senate on fire legislation. The primer is based on best available science on ways for communities to co-exist safely with fire’s ecological role on public lands, given fire is not going away, no matter how hard mangers try to suppress it.