Light the world on fire


“Remember, only you can prevent forest fires.” – Smokey the Bear

Except, apparently, we can’t prevent and control wildfires as easily as Smokey the Bear made it sound. Shocker.

However, I have an even more gasp-inducing statement: we should let them burn.

In fact, we should be lighting them ourselves.

Last year alone, wildfires consumed 9.7 million acres of land, and that number is only climbing. Not necessarily because the number of fires we’re having is increasing, but because many of the fires that burn through our forests are classified as mega-fires, a badge earned when fires burn through more than 100,000 acres.

Fires are eating our nation. So why do I think we should be lighting them?

A proven fact for all ecological issues is that it’s easier to prevent them than to stop them or reverse them. Wildfires are no different. The more preventative action we have the lower those scary statistics will drop. And there are a plethora of preventative steps we can take. One of them is prescribed fire.

Our forests are essentially composed of two levels. The forest floor, and the canopy. When trees die and leaves fall and small plants grow they build up creating a layer of undergrowth. If fires happen often and in the controlled setting of prescribed fires then only that little stuff on the ground burns. This means there is little loss of life, little damage to the mature trees, and little chance of harm to humans.

But when we write off fire altogether, that stuff continues to pile up until one day when there’s a spark. Whether a bolt of lighting, a careless camper, a little too much sunlight, or too hot a day, before long that “safe” forest is a charred scorch mark across our nation. At least all of that underbrush is gone, but so are all the trees. You win some you lose some, I guess.

Even if we could convince the crazies who think their view is right no matter how many times you prove them wrong, the money that is put aside to prevent fires constantly gets used to contain and control the mega-fires that break out every year. It’s a vicious cycle. All it would take is an increase in preventative measures and money put toward such things for a few years to drastically change the fire issues that char our landscape.

“Remember, only you can light the world on fire.”