Sustain Our Nation's Forests and Grasslands

Era of Megafires presentation helps Region 6 train firefighters

Prescribed fire burning in the background
June, 2016 – Stand replacement prescribed fires conducted on the Richfield Ranger District, Fishlake National Forest, Richfield, Utah. USDA Forest Service photo by Kelly Cornwall.

OREGON – Since June 2016, the “Era of Megafires” presentation, developed by PNW Research Station scientist Paul Hessburg and North 40 Productions, has been given in more than 100 cities and towns across the United States and viewed by more than 53,000 people. The 15-minute TEDTalk version of the presentation has been accessed online over a million times. Seeing an opportunity to create a common conversation about wildfire – where everyone in the USDA Forest Service is speaking about the current wildfire problem using similar language – Pacific Northwest Research Station and Region 6 Fire and Aviation reached out to North 40 Productions to create an internal training video.

North 40 Productions developed the 20-minute version, which Region 6 inserted into its S130/190: “Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior” classes this spring. The interagency classes are attended by firefighters from the USDA Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service as well as state government agencies. The hope is that other regions will make the video part of their wildland firefighting training and that the video will be hosted on AgLearn to be available to everyone in the USDA.

As wildland fires change because of alterations in the natural environment, firefighting strategies and tactics change with them. Today, there is less emphasis on direct attack and full suppression compared to past efforts, and more emphasis on pre- and post-season landscape treatments via prescribed burning and forest thinning. The training video explains why these changes have occurred, why they are important to keep in mind while engaging in fire suppression, and why it is important to let some wildfires burn.

Megafires are wildfires that burn more than 100,000 acres and can severely damage or destroy human communities, wildlife habitat, and natural resources. Over the past decade, the number of megafires continues to rise. A century-long policy of fire suppression, coupled with logging that removed large, old, widely spaced, fire-resistant trees, has created forests overloaded with brush and small trees that are poised to burn big.

To learn more about how your region can use the Era of Megafires presentation, please contact Pacific Northwest Research Station Public Affairs Specialist Matthew Burks.

View the Era of Megafires TEDTalk or view the tour dates for this presentation.