Fire is a powerful and dynamic natural disturbance process that plays an important role in many ecosystems. Landscapes have evolved with fire over millennia, such that plants and animals have adapted to co-exist with particular fire patterns ─or fire regimes. Elements of fire regimes include their size, season, severity, frequency, and spatial extent or patchiness.
But over the past few decades, wildfires have worsened by almost every metric. It's impossible to ignore this new consequence of environmental change. Fires are getting larger, more severe, more destructive and dangerous, and eliminating entire patches of forests, grasslands, and shrublands.
Why this western fire problem?
The combination of changing climate, extreme weather, land use, aggressive fire suppression policies, and wildland urban interface expansion have contributed to altered fire behavior regimes. And all of these past and current factors are converging in a big way in the western U.S. Today's notable fires pose an increasing threat to human health, infrastructure, natural resources, and ecosystem resilience.
A Closer Look
Fire regimes vary across regions in the western U.S., which means that the fire problem does too. This new age of fire poses unique ecosystem-specific challenges that must be addressed.
Recognizing these challenges, the federal government funded the Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) Exchange Network ─a collaboration of 15 organizations tasked to provide and improve fire science use in federal, state, local, tribal and private management within similar ecological regions.
These critical organizations work diligently to bring communities, scientists, managers, and policymakers together to address regional fire management needs and challenges.