Prescribed burns tamp down wildfire threat

April 25, 2021

Prescribed Burns Tamp down Wildfire Threat

by Adam Atchley and Alexandra Jonko

As New Mexico emerges from a winter of sub-par snow, leaving much of the state in extreme drought, the season change seems to naturally steer our attention to the annual threat of wildfires. The National Interagency Fire Center is predicting an above-normal fire risk for the entire state; small blazes have been popping up; and agencies are carrying out prescribed burns. These important, science-based preventive fires are carefully engineered to clear out the deadwood, forest litter, and natural debris that stoke wildfires.

In New Mexico and beyond, climate change is playing a role in the increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires. Hotter days, warmer nights, and less rain trigger a wide range of effects that set up the dry Southwest for bigger, hotter, more socially and economically devastating conflagrations. Fortunately, wildland fire science is delivering tools to help tame fires through decision support for the expanded safe use of prescribed burns and improving knowledge about the feedbacks between natural fires and their environment. The goal is to enable land managers to better anticipate changes in fire behavior and refine practices for keeping blazes from exploding in intensity, scope, and duration.

At Los Alamos National Laboratory, we study climate change and its impact on the environment – both natural and human – because they have a direct impact on the things we care about: national security, economic security, energy security, societal security – in the sense of protecting people from social disruption – and environmental protection, which includes preserving nature and natural resources.

Read the rest of the story as it appeared in the Albuquerque Journal.