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WILDLAND FIRE MANAGER - Firestarters

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Firestarters

You may be interested to learn that wildland firefighters sometimes must start fires as well as put them out.

Fires are a natural and necessary element in nature. In fact, a forest's health requires the occasional fire. A fire can clear away old, dead growth and make room for younger, more healthy trees. The ash that results from a fire is rich in nutrients and acts as a natural fertilizer. However, for a good part of this century, government policy mandated that fires not be allowed to burn. According to the National Park Service, more than 100 years of fighting wildfires has altered the landscape. This has resulted in important changes to the forest environment, such as a heavy buildup of dead vegetation, dense stands of trees, a shift to species that have not evolved and adapted to fire, and, occasionally, even an increase in non-native fire-prone plants. Because of these conditions, today's fires tend to be larger, burn hotter, and spread farther and faster, making them more severe, more dangerous, and more costly in human, economic, and ecological terms. In recent years, during droughts in California, Washington, and Florida, we have seen how easily fires can start and how quickly they rage out of control when a forest is filled with too much growth and brush. As a result, controlled burns are now part of national forest policy.

Land managers must balance wildland fire suppression with the beneficial use of fire for resource management. A prescribed fire is any fire intentionally ignited to reduce flammable fuels, such as the accumulation of brush and logs on forest floors, or to help restore ecosystem health.

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