Executive summary: Wildfires are a fact of life for westerners. They mark the beginning of the spring season and have been a keystone architect of biodiverse ecosystems for millennia. While wildfires are not eco-catastrophes, they are a health concern, evoke public fear-of-fire exploited by decision makers seeking to push through anti-environmental policies, and generate conflicts over the best ways to coexist with this force of Nature that is not going away (nor should it), no matter how hard we try. This white paper summarizes some of the latest science around top-line wildfire issues, including areas of scientific agreement, disagreement, and ways to coexist with wildfire. It is a synopsis of current literature written for a lay audience and focused on six major fire topics: 1. Are wildfires ecological catastrophes? 2. Are acres burning increasing in forested areas? 3. Is high severity fire within large fire complexes (so called “mega-fires”) increasing? 4. What’s driving the recent increase in burned acres? 5. Does “active management” reduce wildfire occurrence or intensity? 6. Will more wildfire suppression spending make us safer?
DellaSala DA, Ingalsbee T, Hanson CT, 2018. Everything You Wanted to Know About Wildland Fires in forests but were afraid to ask: Lessons learned, ways forward. Wildfire report, Forest Legacies.org, 21 p.