Skip to content Skip to navigation

Setting fires to avoid fires: Stanford study outlines approaches to enable more prescribed burns

A person in fire-fighting gear walks through a wooded area on fire
Image credit: U.S. Forest Service
Jan 20 2020
Fellow, Research, Stanford, Students

Australians desperate for solutions to raging wildfires might find them 8,000 miles away, where a new Stanford-led study proposes ways of overcoming barriers to prescribed burns – fires purposefully set under controlled conditions to clear ground fuels. The paper, published Jan. 20 in Nature Sustainability, outlines a range of approaches to significantly increase the deployment of prescribed burns in California and potentially in other regions, including Australia, that share similar climate, landscape and policy challenges.

“We need a colossal expansion of fuel treatments,” said study lead author Rebecca Miller, a PhD student in the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources within the Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.

“Prescribed burns are effective and safe,” said study co-author Chris Field, the Perry L. McCarty Director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies. “California needs to remove obstacles to their use so we can avoid more devastating wildfires.”

Lead author Rebecca Miller is a 2019 Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow. Senior research scientist Katharine Mach is a 2008 Presidential Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow, Biology.

Read the full article