Update: Forest thinning won’t stop destructive fires

Fire-proof structures can prevent homes from adding to fuel loads in wildfires.


The remnants of a car sits in Paradise, California, after the Camp Fire in November 2018.


Over the last 20 years, hundreds of thousands of homes have been built in the West’s wildland-urban interface. Meanwhile, wildfires have become more frequent, more severe — and more costly, thanks to the expense of protecting those houses. Unfortunately, homeowners often ignore guidelines for decreasing fire risk. Jack Cohen of the U.S. Forest Service’s FireLab in Missoula, Montana, told HCN, “At this point, we need to change the perception of houses being victims of fire to one of them being fuel.” (“What the High Park wildfire can teach us about protecting homes,” HCN, 8/8/12.)


In November’s Camp Fire, which destroyed 14,000 homes in Northern California, buildings burned but surrounding woodlands often survived. Researchers say the pattern confirms that thinning forests doesn’t reduce home loss nearly as much as fire-wise design and property maintenance. Making wildland-urban communities resistant to ignition is crucial in preventing disasters, Cohen, now retired, told E&E News. The Trump administration, though, has decided to concentrate on increased logging and thinning.

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