It is possible to prevent fires by setting them in certain areas and in particular ways: this suggests a new study, which appeared in Nature Sustainability and was carried out by Stanford scholars who propose the use of so-called “controlled fires” to fight forest fires, also in light of the vast fires that have broken out in Australia.
Controlled fires, or “prescribed fires,” would prove useful especially in those areas where years of suppression of the same fires have led to the massive accumulation of wood and plant fuels in the forests, literally piled up and ready to start new fires. Controlled fires rarely escape predetermined boundaries and can also have ecological benefits on a par with natural fires.
These include the limitation of pests, diseased plants and generally an increase in species diversity. Fire has always been a natural part of the very ecology of forests and woodlands and is certainly not new as a tool used by farmers and foresters. The problem is that it can easily be lost or abused, with all the risks that follow.
Researchers have made precise calculations in their studies by defining the areas to be burned in order to obtain maximum benefits. For example, in California alone there would be a need for controlled fires or controlled logging of about 20 million acres, almost 20% of the area of the entire state.
“Controlled fires are effective and safe,” says Chris Field, director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and Melvin. “California must remove obstacles to their use so that more devastating fires can be avoided.”