Researchers put the “let burn” narrative to the test

By Natalie Cooper, Rocky Mountain Research Station
The US Department of Agriculture
June 5, 2024
Category: Forestry
Region: United States, US West

In 2021, lightning struck on a ridge top in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in California and ignited the Tamarack Fire. …The Tamarack Fire brought scrutiny to the initial fire response strategy, designed to limit risks to firefighters. Many members of the public attributed the negative outcomes to an unofficial Forest Service “let burn” policy that takes advantage of lightning-caused fires to restore fire-adapted landscapes rather than immediately suppress them. Led by researcher and fire management specialist Brad Pietruszka, a group of researchers at the Rocky Mountain Research Station examined incident reports from wildfires like the Tamarack… Their research questions whether data support public perceptions represented in the “let burn” narrative and offers insight into how managers balance competing objectives during wildfire response. …This research offers a baseline for risk analysis and could inform the agency in evaluating future wildfire events. 

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