Compared to past years, 2017 has been a fairly slow wildland fire season in Alaska, with 332 fires that burned 626,361 acres by Aug. 2. But more active summers—like those in 2004, 2005 and 2015 (when 6.5, 4.6 and 5.1 million acres burned, respectively) — are nonetheless in our future.
Alaskans know fire is a natural, inevitable part of the boreal forest ecosystem, and Alaska is fortunate in our ability to tolerate fires in unoccupied areas, reducing fuel loads and renewing vegetation. But we can’t allow all fires to burn unchecked.
Alaska’s fire managers work hard to balance fire suppression actions to protect life and property with fire’s long-term benefits to our landscapes.
As agency budgets shrink and fire seasons lengthen, the challenges managers face in implementing this strategy have grown, particularly in populated areas. University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers have been asked to help agencies increase their operational efficiency by strengthening the science supporting their decision-making.
As Division of Forestry Director Chris Maisch has observed, the UAF’s work is “making a real difference for the agencies working on wildland fire issues in the state.” Together, we are evaluating fuel treatment programs, improving predictions of fire weather and fire danger, and expanding the use of satellite information sources to help prepare for future fire seasons.
In populated areas, preparation includes reducing hazardous fuels near at-risk Alaska communities by cutting fuel breaks and encouraging homeowners to follow “firewise” guidelines.
Read the full article here.