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Fire and Fire Suppression, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Fire has an important role in an ecosystem.  It “is essential to the health of most scrublands.  Without periodic burning, many scrublands would alter in composition…Fires serve to kill young trees and keep them in shrub form” (Smith).  Controlled burning is also used annually by grain farmers and as required by orchardists to remove dead and less-than-desirable plants so that new plants can sprout and grow as the new seasons approach.  Controlled burning is also used when clearing large tracts of land for various developments. Sections of treed land with infected trees by pine beetles and other bugs are burned as well.  Fires also help forests to grow in a density that is safer from undesired fires than one that is far too thick.

“For most of the 20th century, U.S. federal fire policy focused on suppressing all fires on national forests.  The goal was to protect timber resources and rural communities, but this policy ignored the ecological importance of fire” (Berry).  Fires add nutrients to the soil,  establish seedlings, and  develop forests of an ideal density.  “According to Forest Service estimates, almost 70 percent of federal forests (151 million acres) are in need of some fuel restoration treatment and more than 60 million acres…are at high risk of catastrophic wildfire… fire policy has placed them at risk”(ibid.).  The fire suppression policy has failed, but it was not until 1978 that the Forest Fires Emergency Act was repealed.

In my opinion, wildfires should be fought just as soon as they occur unless they are in an area where they are actually desired and they cannot spread beyond certain parameters and, thereby, cause damage to structures, homes and people.  However, in dry hot Western areas such as California, USA, and British Columbia, Canada, a small fire can turn into a large relatively uncontrollable one in a very short time even if fought by many fire fighters on the ground and water bombers and fire-retardant-carrying planes in the air. Although people living in interface areas are the most vulnerable in such instances, the smoke from huge fires travels for miles and can impede road, air, and sea travel as well as cause the elderly, the very young and those with chronic health conditions serious  problems.  In such cases these people are often advised to stay inside.  However, the power may be ought, and people would swelter and become dehydrated in their homes.  Hospital Emergency rooms become overloaded.

To a certain extent, some people living in such areas are taking a calculated risk. However, these wildfires also affect cottage owners, recreational camps, people who work at national parks all year long, ski resorts and others. Most of these people take pride in their homes and protect themselves as much as they can from the ravages of wildfires, but they cannot be held totally responsible for their own safety because they are no match for a wildfire.  Most of them do, however, know what defensible space is (Wildfire is Coming) and make sure that they have good buffers between buildings on their properties and surrounding grass, shrubs, and trees.

If people have witnessed or been told about several homes that had been made as fire safe as possible left standing while others nearby burned, I believe they will do their best to make theirs that way as well.  If they still do not have adequate defensible space, more education—not fines– is needed.  They need to internalize what they would go through if their homes burn.

Works Cited

Berry, A.  Property and Environment Research Center.  Forest policy up in smoke: Fire suppression in the United States.  Retrieved on November 19, 2012, from http://perc.org/sites/default/files/Forest%2OL.

Smith, J. M. B.  Encyclopedia Britannica, Facts Matter.  Scrubland.  Article, Free Press. Retrieved on November 19, 2012, from http://www.britannica.com/E.B.checked/topic/53011.

Wildfire is Coming.  Are You Set?  Defensible space.  Retrieved on November 19, 2012, from http://www.ready/forwildfire.org/defensible_space.

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