The 2014 Carlton Complex Fire in Washington is one of several past large wildfires being studied to determine how fuel treatment programs and past wildfires affect the spread and severity of wildfires. Photo courtesy of Adam Cohen.
The 2014 Carlton Complex Fire in north-central Washington was a “megafire.” It burned 167,000 acres within 24 hours, driven by strong warm winds through a drought-ridden landscape. By examining burn severity within the footprints of past fuel reduction treatments and prior wildfires, scientists are identifying how strategic placement of fuel treatments in fire-prone landscapes may contribute to resilient landscapes.
Megafires are exceptionally large wildland fires that burn more than 100,000 acres. They have become more common in recent years, and some have questioned whether prior fuel-reduction treatments make a difference when extreme fire weather conditions are fanning an uncontrollable wildfire.
Scientists with the Pacific Northwest Research Station and their colleagues are conducting a series of studies that examine how past wildfire and fuel reduction treatments influenced fire severity during the 2014 Carlton Complex Fire. These studies were designed to inform the implementation of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy.
Key findings to date provide useful information to land managers wanting to prioritize the type and strategic placement of fuel treatments to optimize their effectiveness in dry forest management:
Related article: Prichard, S.J.; Povak, N.A.; Kennedy, M.C.; Peterson, D.W. 2020. Fuel treatment effectiveness in the context of landform, vegetation and large, wind-driven wildfire events. Ecological Applications. https://doi.org/10.1002/eap.2104.