It's almost every other day, during the summer months, that you turn on the news and there are reports of either a new forest fire breaking out or reports of the damage that an existing fire has already done. While one may not live in the affected area, the smell and feel of the thick and heavy smog blanketing the air is felt far beyond the source of the fire. And this, in my opinion, shows just how motile fire really is. It doesn't just spread from the source of the fire to burn through nearby carbon-based fuel sources but it also travels across vast distances in the form of smoke to affect air quality hundreds of kilometres away. As we discussed in class, fire is essential and important for our ecosystems. The issue is that wildfires today are (1) being exacerbated by climate change and (2) fires are just hotter now than ever before. The two issues make for a deadly combination. Climate change drys out wood and other carbon-based fuel sources in forests, allowing for faster combustion and the increased heat being emitted from the fires causes the burning of soil and seed beds. So not only is the fire expanding in area affected, it's also affecting the depth of damage.
It's hard to think of solutions. What can we really do about it? A potential solution is prescribed fires. I know...that sounds so strange considering I just talked about why forest fires can be so detrimental. But prescribed fires (aka. controlled burns) are actually a method we can implement to control the intensity of forest fires. As the Government of BC defines it "Prescribed fire is the planned and controlled application of fire to a specific land area and is one of the most ecologically appropriate and relatively efficient means for achieving planned public safety and resource management objectives, for example to enhance a habitat, prepare an area for tree planting or, for disease eradication."
My vision for the future is the normalization of these fuel management methods, which although sound extreme, actually will benefit the environment, animal health and human health in the long term. To normalize these methods, the government should create more advertisements directed to educate the general public.
I hope, together as a society, we can implement the right methods to lower the number of forest fires and if they occur, we implement the methods to lower their intensity in the future!