USA – Wildfires burned through thousands of acres of Great Plains farm and ranch land in the 1980s. Today, wildfires are likely to char millions of acres.
The Great Plains are seeing more wildfires, according to a new study, leading researchers to ask why the fires are happening, and fire managers to examine what resources they will need to keep the blazes in check.
Wildfires can be started by neglected campfires or cigarette butts. They can ignite from prescribed burns run amok or launch from lightning strikes. The rapid uptick in fires was documented in a study from researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which examined fire records over the last 30 years across the Plains, from Texas to the Dakotas.
The total hectares burned by wildfires increased by upwards of 400 percent in the Great Plains, says Victoria Donovan, a Ph.D. student at UNL and lead author of the study. We found that we have an increasing probability of wildfire, so theres a greater likelihood of a large wildfire occurring every year in a lot of locations.
Donovan says wildfire was common on the Plains before Europeans arrived in the region. The arrival of the pioneers actually put a lot of wildfires out. But fire managers on the Plains are less practiced than their counterparts in the West at dealing with a high volume of wildfire events.
Weve been very effective at suppressing wildfires in this area in the last 100 years, so were not necessarily as prepared for these shifts in wildfire compared to areas like the western U.S. that have been experiencing a lot more frequent large wildfires in recent history, Donovan says.
Donovan isnt sure whether the number of fires will keep going up. The study didnt look at what is causing the trend. It is worth investigating, she says, whether humans are responsible for more fires, and what role climate change is playing in spurring greater numbers. She says it may make sense to look at the how the prevalence of invasive species may be fueling some fires.
When you have different types of plants that create different fuels, that increases the amount of fuel you have so you can have much more extreme wildfire behaviors that might be more difficult to suppress, Donovan says.
The trend Donovan documents includes a rash of wildfires in Nebraska in 2012 when around 100,000 acres burned on the Pine Ridge region of northwest Nebraska.
This years fire season is another good example. In March, fires swept parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas. The Starbuck fire in southwest Kansas raced across Gena Kirks ranch and went on to consume around 500,000 acres of grassland.
It was throwing fireballs. It was mean, ugly. It was loud, Gena Kirk told Harvest Public Media in April.
The fires killed seven people across the region and thousands of cattle. Landowners like Kirk faced a big bill to rebuild everything from homes to fences.
We have 45 miles of fence down and it costs $10,000 a mile to put it up, Kirk says.
If there are more fires, the job of preventing them and preventing damage to farms and homes will largely start with volunteer firefighters in rural towns.
It goes into being prepared in training, making sure they actually know how to run the engines they have (and) making sure they have quality equipment to be doing the job they need to be doing, says Seth Peterson, a fire management specialist for the Nebraska Forest Service in Chadron.
There was an increase in state funding in Nebraska for volunteer firefighter training after an outbreak of wildfires in 2012, Peterson says. Theres also more money to buy new equipment such as small planes that drop fire retardant and retired military vehicles retrofitted as fire trucks. Peterson says Nebraska officials are working to make the state as prepared as possible if a fire like the one in Kansas happens there.
We have to be. The fires are going to happen, Peterson says. Every fire is different. I think we are prepared. But no matter how prepared you are youre going to be tested at some point.
If the trend of more wildfires does continue, policy makers and firefighters in Plains states like Nebraska may have to look at whether they are ready to keep them contained.
The forest fire, which started on the night of June 24 and still smoldering in Spain’s southwestern region of Huelva, burned a total of 8,486 hectares, the Andalusian Regional Government said on Wednesday. Environmental spokesman for Andalusia, Jose Fiscal, confirmed the damage on his Twitter account. Over 2,000 people had had to be evacuated from hotels and campsites on the perimeter of the fire, he said. He added that the perimeter established around the fire was actually 10,900 hectares, but within that perimeter, 2,414 hectares of woodland were still intact. The fire damaged two protected areas: 6,761 hectares of Donana National Park, which has UNESCO protected status and is home to around 400 different species such as the threatened Iberian Lynx and Iberian Eagle, and 17 hectares of Laguna de Palos y Madres Nature Park. The Andalusian government believed that had it not been for the work of fire fighters, who at the height of the blaze numbered around 500, the damage would have been far worse for the 43,225 hectares of woods and scrubland. According to the regional government, temperatures were around 40 degrees Celsius when the fire began, with a wind-speed of between 30 and 40 km per hour (km/h) and gusts of up to 90 km/h at night, which helped propagate the flames and made it impossible to use aircraft or helicopters to fight the fire. A total of 50 firemen remain in the zone to continue the work of damping down and to ensure there are no flare ups, while investigations continue into the cause of the blaze. Authorities have not ruled out a human cause. Read full text at: http://eng.belta.by/society/view/spanish-forest-fire-burns-over-8400-hectares-in-and-around-national-park-102857-2017/ If you use BelTAs materials, you must credit us with a hyperlink to eng.belta.by.Tropical peat swamp forests, which once occupied large swaths of Southeast Asia and other areas, provided a significant “sink” that helped remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But such forests have been disappearing fast due to clear-cutting and drainage projects making way for plantations. Now, research shows peatlands face another threat, as climate change alters rainfall patterns, potentially destroying even forested peatlands that remain undrained.
Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-06-peatlands-dwindling-losses.html#jCpTropical peat swamp forests, which once occupied large swaths of Southeast Asia and other areas, provided a significant “sink” that helped remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But such forests have been disappearing fast due to clear-cutting and drainage projects making way for plantations. Now, research shows peatlands face another threat, as climate change alters rainfall patterns, potentially destroying even forested peatlands that remain undrained.