Our Dry, Warm Future may Favor Oaks

Historically, many oak forests across the eastern U.S. experienced frequent low-intensity fires that promoted the establishment and growth of oaks. “However, fire and other disturbances have become less common,” says U.S. Forest Service scientist James Vose. “Red maple, tulip poplar, and other mesophytic, fire-sensitive, and shade-tolerant trees are increasing in many areas of the eastern…  More 

The Future of Fire in the South

Fire is an integral part of the southern landscape. In the U.S., most of the focus is on the catastrophic fires that regularly sweep across the western states, but wildfires actually occur more frequently in the Southeast, where rapid vegetation growth and fuel accumulation combine with frequent ignitions from lightning and humans. The South leads the nation…  More 

Wildfire Suppression in 1916

A window into the early years of fire fighting is available online due to the persistent efforts of Southern Research Station (SRS) scientist Jeff Prestemon. Roy Headley, who served as head of the Forest Service Division of Fire Control (precursor to today’s Fire and Aviation Management Office) for 25 years, started out with the Forest Service at…  More 

In the Southeast, Who’s in the Path of Smoke Plumes?

For more than 30 years, researchers have known that poor communities and people of color in the U.S. are more likely to be affected by environmental threats such as landfills and toxic waste sites. “Are these socially vulnerable communities also exposed to more smoke from wildfires and prescribed fires?” says U.S. Forest Service scientist Cassandra…  More 

Scientists Look to Big Data to Address Local Fire Problems

The case of the Bastrop County Complex illustrates the need for a new way of thinking about the issue of wildfire. In September of 2011, a year of severe drought, a summer of record-breaking heat, winds from a tropical storm, and a few sparks combined to create the fire, which burned through 34,000 acres of southeastern…  More 

A Conversation About Fire and Water

For hydrologist Dennis Hallema, a recent conference presentation in Kelowna, British Columbia, turned into an opportunity to speak about an urgent research issue in front of an even larger audience. Following his talk at the 4th International Conference on Forests and Water in a Changing Environment, Hallema (an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education…  More 

Tribal Fire Prevention Programs Work

Humans – either intentionally or accidentally — cause more than 55 percent of wildfires on lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Interior. Federal agencies try to prevent wildfire and reduce the high costs associated with it through fire prevention activities that include burn permits, public service programs, outreach efforts, and law…  More 

Is Your Home at Risk from Wildfire?

Though fire plays an important part in the forest ecosystems of the South, wildfire presents a grave risk to homes built in or near natural areas. The good news is that all home are not equally at risk, and steps can be taken to reduce risk. Wildfire risk to homes depends on nearby land use, trees, vegetation near the home, and…  More 

Cigarettes are Causing Fewer Wildfires, but Why?

  The number of wildfires caused by cigarettes has fallen drastically. “Since 1980, smoking-caused wildfires fell by 90 percent,” says U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) scientist Jeffrey Prestemon. “Until recently, little has been known about why, and other causes of wildfire have not experienced this level of decline.” Prestemon, project leader of the…  More 

How do Wildfires — And Efforts to Abate Them — Affect the Nation’s Water Supplies?

More than 180 million people across the United States rely on forest watersheds to store, filter, and deliver the water that flows from their taps. Unfortunately, in many parts of the country, these watershed functions face an increasing risk of severe wildfire. Prescribed burning is one treatment that can reduce forest fuels and wildfire’s threats…  More