Why Are Forest Fires Getting Stronger?

Stewart Gasper

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Stewart Gasper

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    There are more forest fires and they are getting bigger – but why? Researchers at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment have analyzed this risk based on two realities: increasingly dry and hot summers and abundance of organic fuel in the surrounding lands. For the next few months, the National Interagency Fire Center forecasts a great season of forest fires along the west coast, which runs from California to Canada, due to a large number of pastures and other plants that grow after a wet winter. In fact, in California some utility company has already started power outages to prevent risks.

    This is how crude oil is exposed by Chris Field, director of Stanford Woods: “We are in an era in which each fire season is likely to be out of the ordinary and that each fire can be said to be among the most destructive ever registered. And to continue at this rate, in 2030 and 204 it will seem to us that the current ones were mild.”

    Rebeca Miller, who studies protection and prevention policy, and Michael Goss, who investigates the climatic conditions responsible for the extreme danger of forest fires, have also participated in this study. The latter forecasts temperatures above normal until at least August, which will reduce the accumulation of snow in the highlands. In addition, strong offshore wind events are expected. Field points out that these circumstances leave the terrain very susceptible to any small spark caused by a power line, a discarded cigarette or an unattended fire.

    Although at the individual and community level it is always possible to mitigate the risks, the authors point out that specific measures and policies are required in the long term. “If the world continues to warm up to the expected levels with high emissions throughout the 21st century, it is difficult to imagine the successful management of the risk of forest fires such as those occurring in California,” says Goss.