It could well be a scene played out in a natural disaster action film: an unstoppable wall of flames destroys everything in its path; pounding rain rips across the barren landscape moving downed trees, boulders and mountains of dirt; watersheds are destroyed, reservoirs fill up with silt; and a foot of mud buries the town and surrounding interstates. It also could be the future of mountain communities across the Southwest.
Fire managers, fuels practitioners and forest scientists are meeting in Flagstaff next week during the Southwest Interagency Fuels Workshop to discuss the challenges of restoring millions of acres in fire-adapted ecosystems.
Ecosystems in the Southwest evolved with wildfire and fire is essential to most ecosystems’ health and resilience. However, with more than a century of human-caused changes to the wildlands, many fires burn so hot they are harmful rather than helpful. Protecting firefighter and public safety while maintaining landscapes that evolved with natural fire is just one of the many challenges fire managers face.
Fire specialists and researchers are congregating from all parts of the region to discuss tools and techniques to deal with today’s dangerous wildfires and address these issues. Northern Arizona University assistant forestry professor, Andrea Thode, a leader with the Southwest Fire Science Consortium, says presentations and discussions will look at fire issues in five different types of vegetation from grasslands to mixed conifer.