Updated: Jan 19, 2021
Edward Struzik’s Firestorm: How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future was published in 2017 and its timing is impeccable. Struzik presents a comprehensive and compelling overview of past wildfire management and how it has led to greater and more destructive fires. The author explores numerous fires in Canada and the US, starting with the megafire that burned through Fort McMurray, Alberta in 2016. “The Beast”, as it came to be called, scorched 1.5 million acres of land, and was estimated to cost more than $8.8 billion dollars. Firestorm is about what this fire highlighted so dramatically – a new wildfire paradigm, that of the megafire. Megafire is a relatively new label used to describe fires greater than 100,000 acres, and Struzik argues that megafires will be more frequent, more destructive, more unpredictable, and more costly unless significant action is taken.
Struzik interviewed scientists, wildfire experts, forest managers, firefighters, government officials, and the public. From this research, he chronicles the history of fire suppression and how that ethic has led to unprecedented fires in recent years. Struzik states we invest little in fire science, forest management, and conservation, a situation created in part by the sharply escalating costs governments pay to combat fires. He argues that we need a new management ethic if we are to adapt to a new paradigm of megafires.
He says we need “meaningful investments…in scientific research, conservation, prevention, education and a better understanding of how climate, wildfire, insects, drought, flooding, and invasive species are going to shape our forests in the future.”
Firestorm is a magnificent book and an enlightening read for anyone interested in learning more about our relationship with fire, especially considering the past fire season.
Last year in California, 10 megafires scorched over 4.4 million acres and more than $2 billion was spent on fire suppression. This was a historic fire season, and we are clearly experiencing a new wildfire paradigm. We need significant political and public action to adapt to this new paradigm. Although support for increasing wildfire science and active management has been slow, GrizzlyCorps mission to expand capacity for organizations working on community resilience and climate action fits right in line with Struzik’s call for meaningful investments. I am grateful to be part of this program and I’m lucky to be serving with the El Dorado and Georgetown Divide Resource Conservation Districts.
I get to work on projects that prioritize collaborative management to improve wildfire preparedness, forest and watershed health, and community resilience.
One such project is the Fire Adapted 50 project. Part of the project involves establishing shaded fuel breaks next to existing fire mitigation lines developed during the then historic King Fire of 2014. This work is part of the new management paradigm that can help our society mitigate and adapt to megafires. The RCD and its partners have treated over 12,000 acres of forestland and I’m confident this work will inspire other organizations, associations, and policy makers to take action in their communities.
By Jason Landers