Prediction map shows more large fires possible for Western U.S.
BOISE, Idaho | By ERIC TEGETHOFF (Public News Service) – A new project is showing the West how much it will heat up as temperatures continue to rise.
“This Place Will Burn” provides county-level predictions for the frequency of fires covering 12,000 acres or more.
For southwest Idaho, that could mean very large fires occurring more than once a year within the next two decades.
Jon Leland is the creator of This Place Will Burn.
“This isn’t happening over a super-long timeline,” Leland explained. “These are the frequencies that we’re on track to get to by 2040; just in the next 20 years. So this is within most of our lifetimes that we’re seeing this dramatic increase in the frequency of these large fires.”
The project currently is in its Kickstarter phase to raise funds and spread the word about the West’s hot future. Leland said the goal is to raise awareness and mobilize communities to take action on climate change.
He said forest fires threaten the forests that make the Northwest special, and they also threaten communities.
Leland pointed to the Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif., that killed more than 85 people.
“The risk, not just to the sort of natural landscape but to the community itself, is scary,” Leland said. “And as more and more of these large wildfires in particular occur, it becomes harder and harder to fight them and rebuild from them.”
Leland said communities at risk from large fires need to implement smart land-management policies, such as controlled burns. But he hopes the project also can help push leaders toward change.
“They can use that information to then pressure their elected representatives, mobilize people within their community to band together, and push for the kind of changes that are needed to address these sorts of issues,” Leland added.