PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — According to a recently published scientific study, the United States has been fighting wildfires incorrectly for decades.
As much of the western U.S. continues to burn, a team of scientists from leading research universities has published a synthesis of the scientific literature outlining the “urgent need for change” in the way wildfires are battled during the onset of climate change.
Scientists from more than 20 institutions, which include Oregon State University and the University of Washington, reviewed more than 1,000 research papers over the past century, before publishing the study “Wildfire and climate change adaptation of western North American forests: a case for intentional management” this week.
Key recommendations outlined in the article include reducing fuels on the ground; reintroducing frequent small fires, which is a preventative measure practice by Native Americans; thinning dense forests; and allowing more wildfires to burn before and after peak wildfire season.
The study states “suppressing fires is still the norm even as megafires become more common and destructive. Scientists from across western North America are working to change that.”
Oregon State University Fire Specialist Christopher Adlam applauded the study, taking to social media to post “I hope the media (and anyone who cares about the future of fire management) pays attention to this monument of fire science. This is literally the mic drop moment for the country’s top fire/forest ecologists.”
In an interview with KOIN 6 News Dan Tilkin brought up the issue of suppressing fires with Adlam, asking if after so many decades of fighting fires, if humans were becoming too good at it.
“Yeah, absolutely!” Adlam replied. “You know, we wanted to protect values that we thought were vulnerable in the face of fire. We wanted to protect timber. We wanted to protect our communities, but what we were doing was also removing a vital part of the ecosystem.”
The recent study supports Adlam’s claims and further suggests reducing fuels and restoring fires may help the terrain adapt, increasing forests and nearby communities’ resiliency to wildfire damage.