Wildfires are a natural and necessary phenomenon. But as climate change produces hotter, drier conditions and more catastrophic fire activity every year, suppression may no longer be a sufficient strategy by itself. It’s increasingly necessary to fight fire with fire.
Prescribed burning is both expensive and highly specialized work though. Communities remain leery of it, with the destruction of recent years fresh on peoples’ minds. And as lawmakers gridlock over land management policy at both the local and federal level, the western states are struggling to get ahead of an increasingly volatile situation. Firefighters and foresters alike will be forced to adapt in coming years.