Things seem to be changing in the West – snowpack levels are lower than they used to be, and the snowpack melts earlier in spring. Fire seasons are longer and more severe. Megafires, wildfires over 100,000 acres, now occur more often, causing wide-ranging impact on homes, communities, and wildlands. These changes are expected to continue, and we need to increase the fire resiliency of our wildlands, while also completing defensible space work around homes and communities.
Era of Megafires is a 60-minute, multimedia program featuring Dr. Paul Hessburg (research scientist with U.S. Forest Service). Paul has conducted fire and landscape ecology research for more than 27 years. The Megafires program features fast-paced, topic-based talks interspersed with compelling video stories. This educational event was coordinated by OHA, funded by community members, and hosted at the CCC on April 6, 2018.
Hessburg’s work has been published extensively in leading scientific journals over the past 30 years, but recently he’s felt a tug to take his findings public. The impetus stems from how favorite forests near his home in Central Washington had been ravaged by large and atypical wildfires. One of those fires, The Carlton Complex Fire, became the biggest megafire (one larger than 100,000 acres) in state history when it burned 256,000 acres and destroyed 322 homes. A year later in 2015, his hometown of Wenatchee lost 30 upscale homes and several warehouses in the Sleepy Hollow Fire. The narrative draws from Hessburg’s research over recent decades, explores the use of several tools, and discusses the trade-off between wild and prescribed fire smoke.