Wildfire and You

Pine trees survive, but with scorched lower limbs, after a low-intensity fire in the Methow Valley.

By Rob Lionberger, DNR Stewardship Forester for Eastern Washington

If you are reading this article, you are likely a small landowner who lives in or near the forest. It is also very likely that fire has shaped what you see on your land and in the forest around you as a whole, and that fire exclusion has played a large role in generating the forest conditions you consider natural today.

Our views on fire and its role in forest health have changed much in recent years, and it is time to ignite a conversation about what role it has on your property. In an upcoming series of these articles, I would like to explore various aspects of fire; how it interacts with us on the landscape, from both a utilitarian and an ecological point of view.

I will examine fire behavior and how a fire moves through a landscape, how to prepare your home and outbuildings in the fire environment, issues related to fire prevention and suppression, prescribed fire and small private landowners, and smoke effects and management.

From an ecological perspective, we will examine the history of fire in our forests before settlement, fire as an agent of disturbance and change, the role of fire in a healthy forest, fire’s effect on the landscape, how it can be used as a tool, and how fire suppression has shaped the forest. I hope to spark your interest in these and other topics through the coming newsletters as we examine them with the small forest landowner in mind.

Rob Lionberger is a professional forester who just completed his 30th season fighting wildland fires.  He has a bachelor’s of science degree in forestry with an emphasis on fire ecology from the University of Montana.