Today we’re going to be talking about the ecology of forest fires. The southeastern United States has been in a prolonged drought. Plants, whether farm crops or forest trees, are dry, dry, dry. In November, forest fires in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee left fourteen people dead. Fourteen thousand people were evacuated from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to avoid the wildfires. According to the National Forest Service, more than fifteen thousand acres have burned in Tennessee. Thousands of acres have also burned in Georgia, Virginia, and the Carolinas. In 2016, the Wisconsin DNR tallied 698 forest fires that burned 632 acres in Wisconsin. As our climate changes, especially if we have extended droughts like those on the West Coast and in the Southeast, we might be forced to re-evaluate our relationship with fire.
Here to talk with us about his work studying forest fires is Chad Hanson, forest fire ecologist with the John Muir Project of the Earth Island Institute, based in Berkeley, California.