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Research Suggests Controlled Burns May Stave Off More Intense Wildfires

David Carrera, Bureau of Land Management
Flickr.com/Public Domain

Early Native Americans did controlled burns to eliminate excess fuel or “slash” ahead of the hotter, drier periods.  Now some researcherswant that practice to be revisited as a way to offset hotter and more intense wildfire seasons.

After colonization, fire suppression efforts got more aggressive in order to protect timber and grazing land. But as fuel buildup and temperatures have increased over the decades, so has the ferocity of wildfires.

Chris Dunn is an Oregon State University researcher who studies wildfire risk science.  He said it’s important land managers revisit suppression practices.

“There’s this bias in the fire suppression organization that’s been built for 100 plus years of aggressive suppressio," said Dunn. "Events like what we saw all across the West Coast on Labor Day really reinforced that old model of thinking. We’re really trying to push that so the fire suppression organizations are more dynamic and maybe become a fire management organization or a stewardship organization.”

Dunn said we have to learn to live with fire, which means using science and partnerships to coordinate better practices, which includes minimal-risk, controlled burns.

Dunn made his remarks at a recent OSU media panel.

Copyright 2020, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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