Suffering from suppression


Western forest fires are inevitable; it's not a question of if they're going to occur, but when and how ("Stand down from Western wildfires," HCN, 7/22/13). Biomass accumulates faster than it decomposes in generally dry Western ecosystems. Fire is nature's way of balancing the equation. We have to completely rethink suppression, which only works when weather, fuels and topography are not extreme. But after a century and more of fire exclusion coupled with warming and drying climate regimes, the buzzards are coming home to roost.

We must start viewing fire as an ecological process. Of course, suppression still must be done, but it should be funded 50-50 with fuels reduction, ecological restoration and prescribed fire to reduce the extent and severity of the wildfires when they occur. There is no reason why 19 more people should have died for the misguided policy that views wildfire as something to be fought with more technology and boots on the ground.

Peter Brown
Fort Collins, Colorado

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