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Wildfire Risk

Protecting Human Values In Fire Prone Ecosystems

Protecting Human Values in Fire Prone Ecosystems
  • Restoring fire to a more natural role will be risky in many dry WUI forest areas until fuel loading is significantly reduced by non-fire methods
  • Historical Range of Variability can guide initial fuel reduction targets
  • Due to factors such as global warming, land use change and invasive species, managers may also need to consider sustainable conditions that are different than historic conditions

Wildland fires are a natural component of the ecosystems where hundreds of thousands of Oregonians have chosen to live. Long-term exclusion of fires and land use change in these ecosystems have greatly increased the chances of large, hard to control fires that kill most trees. Further attempts to exclude fires from these forests are costly and often largely unsuccessful.

For these reasons, forest and fire management agencies and communities are intensely focused on the near-term priority of mechanically reducing fuels as a critical first step in longer-term efforts to manage fire-prone forests in safer, more sustainable ways.

  • From a social standpoint, severe wildfires can pose serious risks to life, property and the values people associate with forests
  • From an ecological standpoint, reintroducing fire as part of sustainable forest management without reducing fuel levels first may risk damage to watersheds, soils, wildlife habitat and vegetation recovery potential
  • From an economic standpoint, fuels treatments may increase the chances for rapidly suppressing wildfires in WUI areas, thereby reducing suppression costs and losses of homes and other human infrastructure.