Wildfire can be defined as any type of uncontrolled fire that spreads into the wilderness, which includes pastures, forests, grasslands, and peatlands. The cost of fire suppression in the United States surged to $2.9 billion and $3.1 billion in 2017 and 2018, and the trend continues.
Climate change contributes to more extreme weather events. While the amount of annual precipitation may remain the same, in some areas there are more rainless days and/or heavier rainfalls. Altered weather pattern increases the possibility of intensified wildfires, and this trend will be worsened as climate change continues. Another climate-contributing factor to wildfires is the rising global temperature. It makes the soil and "fuels" accumulated in wildlands drier and easier to get burned.
Fire suppression is not the only pre-burn management. In fact, our efforts to prevent wildfires using fire suppression often help future fires to grow stronger by storing more fuels (trees) for unplanned fires. Intensified unplanned fires enhance the difficulty to control them. Thus, prescribed burning becomes a very useful measure to prevent fires because it limits the presence of ignition sources. Prescribed burning was found to improve the hydraulic properties of topsoil and soil water content according to recent research. These changes help prevent intensified fires.
Fires can open up the upper canopy, allowing allow new saplings to grow; they break down nutrients and minerals, creating more fertile land; they are also important for invasive species removal. Though fires are dangerous to public safety and devastating to many living creatures, professional measures can be taken to utilize the benefits brought by fires and develop a better forest management system. We envision people will try their best to mitigate the global warming situation to make the temperature lower and thus minimize the possibility of wildfires. People will appreciate controlled fires as they reduce the chance of massive fire incidents.
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Aboriginal people are more than five times more likely to die from wildfire than the general population, so they are definitely a critical stakeholder of wildfire management. We can determine where and when fires occur based on traditional knowledge about their territories accumulated over thousands of years. It is important to ensure Aboriginal people’s perspective is clearly represented when talking about wildfire management, and we also hope we can learn from their traditional practices to improve our practices of prescribed burning.