US Forest Service researcher says wildfire response should plan to adapt to drier conditions

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DENVER (KDVR) — This year has been the worst year on record for massive wildfires in Colorado; the Cameron Peak Fire and East Troublesome Fire are the first- and second-largest ever recorded in the state, respectively.

“[And] if you have a lot of wind, you have all the ingredients necessary for tremendous wildfire growth,” Research Forester Mark Finney of the U.S. Forest Service said.

Finney, who studies how wildfires spread, says several factors contributed to this unprecedented year, including record dry conditions.

“I have a feeling this is going to be repeated unless we change how we’re doing business on land,” Finney said.

The researcher says the solution to preventing larger, more destructive fires could be by being less reactive to smaller, less threatening fires. He explains that burn scars from moderate fires could help slow or stop massive wildfires.

“It’s kind of counter-productive to try and remove fire from fire-dependent ecosystems,” Finney said. “The only place where those [massive] fires are at all moderated, is where they ran into some barriers. The notable barriers were the 2012 High Park Fire, west of Fort Collins. The Cameron Peak fire ran right into the rear end of that and stopped.”

Finney stresses, learning to cope with wildfires will be an ongoing issue.

“We’re going to have to figure out a way to live with this,” Finney said. “We’re going to have fire one way or another, we’re not going to be able to suppress our way out of this problem.”

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