It goes without saying that wildfires have had a lot of press lately, especially with the catastrophic loss of so many firefighters last year. Many might be asking "So why are these fires getting so out of hand, and why are they so big compared to 20 years ago?"
The management of fire used to be all about putting them all out. Now that researchers know fire is important, if not essential, for a healthy forest ecosystem, total fire suppression is not a priority. However, backing off of 100-plus years of snuffing them all out is a very dangerous and risky task. Combining the western drought with the build-up of forest understory plants creates massive blazes that produce higher heat and destroy the seed source for the next generation of trees.
FireScape, a group of scientists and land management personnel, look for answers to managing the unique attributes of Arizona's Sky Islands, including the Santa Rita Mountains. There is much to be learned about the role of fire and how it affects these pockets of forest amidst the desert, and hopefully managing fire will progress to the point that we don't have to lose everything in order to bring back a healthy forest for future generations to enjoy.