Exploding California Wildfires Rekindle Debate Over Whether to Snuff Out Blazes in Wilderness Areas or Let Them Burn

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Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Wildfires typically earn attention when they encroach on human settlements, and communities suffer the trauma of sudden evacuations and homes reduced to ash. But a study published in Environmental Research Letters last month suggests that wildfires burn more frequently and at a slightly higher level of severity in remote, roadless areas, like that where the Tamarack fire began. The study analyzed 30 years of wildfire on U.S. Forest Service Land.The findings speak to a longstanding debate over firefighting tactics that has grown fiercer this summer as the fire season has erupted into major conflagrations.“When we suppress fire, we aren’t preventing fire,” said James Johnston, a research associate at Oregon State University’s College of Forestry and the lead author on the study. “We’re just deferring fire.”

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