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What do mountain pine beetles and wildfires have in common? According to foresters, both can destroy poorly managed forests but are less likely to cause damage in well managed forests. Both thrive in drought conditions.
Ryan Lockwood of the Colorado State Forest Service said, “Long-term drought and heavy buildup of trees essentially leads to both problems. You’ll see larger scale insect and disease outbreaks in the forest and you’ll also see these larger and more intense wildfires.” Lockwood says his agency aims to create healthier forests while also helping landowners and managers reduce their wildfire risk. “Everywhere in the Western US, it’s not a question of if a fire will happen, it’s when.”
The former firefighter turned Forest Service spokesperson said it’s essential that landowners protect their homes with what’s called “defensible space” cleared of excess “fuel” or materials that might help a wildfire spread to their property. He also stressed that entire communities must work together to manage areas that affect one another.
This managed approach to preventing wildfires and protecting homes from them is outlined in the US Fire Administration’s publication called Your Role in Fire-Adapted Communities . It stresses the need for everyone to take more responsibility for protecting against wildfires. If a housing area, for instance, is especially at risk for wildfire danger, residents are expected to take preventive steps rather than relying heavily on federal assistance after a problem has occurred. The Firewise Program website is a place to start for resources in your state and community.
The National Wildlife Federation outlines several connections between climate change and more extreme conditions conducive to wildfires. This puts preventing wildfires in the larger context of reducing carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Just like the Fire-Adapted Communities plan, reducing climate change requires both individual and community steps that can start at home. Your family can help reduce climate change by taking easy steps to save energy at home. The US National Park Service also shares information on small steps that can help reduce climate change.