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A Residential Wilderness: Life In The Wild Land Urban Interface

1668 words - 7 pages

Most people living in Northern Arizona are within the wildland-urban Interface, an “… area where structures and other human development meet or intermingle with undeveloped wild land or vegetative fuels” (NIFC, 2000). A residential wilderness inhabited by homes and lives where the vegetation is overgrown and flammable litter levels are high ready for the ominous, looming threat of catastrophic wildfires.The fear about the potential for uncontrollable wildfires within the wildland-urban interface has seriously limited the ability of wildland fires to play their natural roles in maintaining the functionality and vital balance of most ecosystems, thereby reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfires by removing much of the flammable surface litter and overgrown vegetation. Public opposition to fuel management treatments, like prescribed burning and thinning, hinder the effective implementation of these methods to areas in need of fuel reductions within the wildland-urban interface. More education and information needs to be presented to the public in order to gain the trust in the ability of fuel management professionals to reduce the threat of wildfire within their residential wilderness without burning it down or forever altering the aesthetics.BackgroundOur 10,000-hectare area of ponderosa pine ecosystem in northern Arizona is particularly susceptible to health problems and major wildfires. Before European-American settlement, this forest ecosystem consisted of large diameter, widely spaced trees visited frequently by low-intensity, surface fires. “The ponderosa pines have developed evolutionary traits such as: thick bark, prolific seed production, rapid seedling growth, long resinous needles that drop to the ground and produce highly flammable litter, and longevity, all of which are interpreted as adaptations to frequent, low-intensity, surface fires. However, as wildfires began to be artificially suppressed and excluded on a widespread basis about one hundred years ago, the role fire played in maintaining the health of the forest was practically removed. This resulted in reduced tree size and vigor of tree growth, as well as increased tree stand densities” (Edmonds, 2000). The ponderosa pines are a fire-dependant species and require frequent low-intensity, surface fires every two to ten years for their continuous survival. Surface fires, usually ignited by lightning, can remove much of the small, diseased, and dying vegetation. Without these frequent surface fires, vegetative fuels build upon the forest floor to create a ladder for an ignited fire to travel to the crown of the trees, instantly killing them. Crown fires produce catastrophic fires that pose a serious threat to valuable resources and lives within the wildland-urban interface.The removal of fire by suppression is the major factor influencing the poor health and high-fuel load conditions present within the wildland-urban interface today that threatens...

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