SCA Interpretive Ranger Dan
Wildfires are nothing new to the United States or even the world. They are something that humans have been dealing with for as long as we have been a species. In fact, many Native American nations/groups used controlled burns to lessen the impact of wildfires allowing for the environment to recover more quickly and more fruitfully for thousands of years before any Europeans arrived on the continent.
So, if this is nothing new, why then are there stories every year about how devastating wildfires are? Presently, the fires in Canada and Maui come to mind. n fact, we have large organizations whose sole purpose is to fight these fires. If we allocate so many resources to fighting these fires, why are they getting worse? And why should I, someone living in New Hampshire, care about fires in Canada or Maui?
Firstly, we must discuss why wildfires have been getting worse. There are a few reasons; an increase in fuels along with longer and drier fire seasons are the big ones. Although the U.S. has increased the use of controlled burns, particularly in the Southern region, this practice has not yet been fully embraced. This creates an abundance of fuels; mainly dead and dry vegetation, to build up. This causes fires to burn faster, hotter, and larger regardless of whether the fire is started naturally or by humans; intentionally or not.
Imagine making a campfire with no fire ring and kindling lying all over your campsite. You would be worried about the fire spreading to your tent, right? So before you actually make the fire, you would clean up the kindling and anything flammable, and put it in a fire ring. That is essentially what controlled burns are, just on a larger scale. But without the use of controlled burns, there is no “fire ring” and the kindling is everywhere. Combine this with longer and drier fire seasons and it is a constant disaster that people have to contend with.
Controlled burns are not the only part of the complete solution to wildfires. Wildfires will always be a thing. However, a threshold has been crossed. Humans have impacted the danger and intensity of wildfires so much that we have to intervene. “Just letting them burn” unimpeded is not a solution. More often than not, the solution to putting out large wildfires is burning areas ahead of it so there are no more fuels to keep the fire going.
You may wonder how wildfires in the southwest, Canada, or Maui may impact us. For those who were in the Monadnock region in June and July, you know full well how that happens. While our homes may not be at risk there is still a danger. The air quality became dangerously low while fires raged in Canada. Nearly the entire East Coast was being hit with unprecedented smoke levels. People were told to stay inside, close windows, and some even bought or made air filters. People with conditions such as asthma were at great risk during this time.
This is not a one-time event, in fact, this could become our norm in the future. So how can we help? I always say, “The little things add up.” Rarely do people intend on starting large fires that turn into raging wildfires. It’s small things, like not fully putting out campfires, flicking cigarette butts into the woods, gender reveal parties that involve explosives and general carelessness. 87% of wildfires were started by humans in 2022 according to nifc.gov. Being more vigilant with fire safety goes a long way in preventing these fires from starting. We all know what Smokey says so I won’t be redundant, I’ll just leave it at saying we can all help out.
If you see me at Mt Monadnock feel free to come by and say hello, I love discussing wildfires and anything about the outdoors! Just look for the ranger in the blue button-down shirt! Also, be sure to check out Miller State Park if you’re interested in Raptor migration, Ranger Rebecca will be doing programs there. Happy Trails!