USU professor to discuss fire in the West

LOGAN – With fire danger high in Utah, a Tuesday Zoom broadcast will feature Utah State University professor Dr. Larissa Yocom’s take on “Fire in the West, Appreciating the Inevitable.”

Dr. Larissa Yocom,
Wildland Resources Department. Image courtesy of Utah State University

The online broadcast begins Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. and attendees must RSVP to attend. Ahead of her Zoom broadcast, Dr. Yocom says in recent years there have been record-setting fires in the West, but not so much in Utah. Why is that?

“I think that’s a good question, whether we are just lucky so far or whether there’s something particular about Utah, perhaps the really steep slopes for example,” she explains. “That would be a good reason that we haven’t seen a 500,000 acre fire. I think there’s probably not a good reason that we couldn’t have one of those. So we’ve probably just been lucky so far.”

She says given current conditions it appears Utah is set up for a big fire year.

“We don’t want human-started fire, we don’t want fires in the most hot, dry, windy conditions because those are less likely to have beneficial effects,” she adds. “And the third thing is when you see fires in the news and you see flames burning, the last point is it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“What we are trying to avoid, again, is damage to human communities. But in terms of the forest, as long as they’re regenerating, we haven’t actually lost forest, we just returned them back to an earlier stage.”

Dr. Yocom’s presentation and a live question-and-answer session to follow will be hosted through an 11:30 a.m. Zoom link which will be provided when you RSVP at the USU Research Landscapes website.

Dr. Yocom says because it can be counterproductive to remove all fire from the landscape, adjusting public perception of fire as a natural and necessary tool will help Utahns better manage the state’s landscapes.

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