Articles on Wildfires

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Smoke from wildfires in Siberia drifts east toward Canada and the U.S. on July 30, 2019. NASA

Huge wildfires in the Arctic and far North send a planetary warning

A researcher based in Fairbanks, Alaska, links 2019's record-breaking wildfires in far northern regions of the world to climate change, and describes what it's like as zones near her city burn.
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources fire rangers wade through floodwaters as they deploy pumps in Pembroke, Ont., in May 2019. Too many authorities involved in fighting flood risks can often paralyze flood management efforts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Why Canada’s political system makes it difficult to fight floods

Canadian history and international relations theory gives us perspective on why co-ordinating flood management has proven so difficult in Canada and what can be done about it.
A U.S. Forest Service employee using a drop torch during a planned burn in Arizona’s Coconino National Forest. USFS/Ian Horvath

Planned burns can reduce wildfire risks, but expanding use of ‘good fire’ isn’t easy

Decades of wildfire suppression have allowed flammable fuels to pile up in US forests. Scientists and managers say careful use of planned fires can reduce risks of large, out-of-control burns.
Smoke billows from the High Park wildfire west of Fort Collins, Colo., on June 11, 2012, a year of historic drought across much of the western United States. AP Photo/Ed Andrieski

Climate change is driving wildfires, and not just in California

Some observers have blamed recent wildfires on poor forest management, while others point to climate change. In fact, a climate scientist explains, reducing fire risks means tackling both issues.
An image from the International Space Station captures plumes of smoke from California wildfires on August 4, 2018. NASA

Wildfire smoke is becoming a nationwide health threat

Haze from Northern California wildfires has drifted as far east as Philadelphia. Wildfire smoke contains many potentially toxic substances, so anyone exposed to it should take basic precautions.
President Donald Trump and other federal and state officials tour a mobile home and RV park on Nov. 17, 2018 in the wake of the Camp Fire. Paul Kitagaki Jr./The Sacramento Bee via AP, Pool

Better forest management won’t end wildfires, but it can reduce the risks – here’s how

Forest management is not a cure-all for wildfires, although it can help reduce the chances of massive burns. Making this happen will require broad collaborative efforts and more money.
Many California wildfires spread from structure to structure, fed by the winds. Cal Fire

How fierce fall and winter winds help fuel California fires

The dry, hot, downslope Santa Ana winds of Southern California fan late fall wildfires that have largely traveled through – and are fueled by – homes and other structures.
A firefighter in California. Firefighting is getting more and more expensive as fires get more destructive. PETER DASILVA

The bitter lesson of the Californian fires

The California fires are just the most recent in a series of major wildfires. Together, they suggest we need to look at alternative ways of living with fire.
Trees have died in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colo., as climate change has intensified bark beetle infestations and drought. Patrick Gonzalez

Human-caused climate change severely exposes the US national parks

As climate change alters temperature and precipitation patterns across the US, it is having especially severe impacts on national parks. These changes could happen faster than many plants and animals can adapt.
The 2016 Maple fire (photographed in July 2017) reburned young forests that had regenerated after the 1988 Yellowstone fires. More frequent high-severity fires are expected in the future as climate warms, which may change patterns of forest recovery. Monica Turner

Here’s how forests rebounded from Yellowstone’s epic 1988 fires – and why that could be harder in the future

Huge fires roared through Yellowstone National Park in the summer of 1988, scorching one-third of the park. Since then the park has been a valuable lab for studying how forests recover from fires.
Cal Fire Division Chief Mark Higgins directs helicopters dropping water in Lakeport, California. AP Photo/Noah Berger

Wildfires are inevitable – increasing home losses, fatalities and costs are not

As California reels from another devastating fire season, environmental resource scholars explain how the state – and other fire-prone areas – can better prepare and coexist with wildfires.

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