Expect more big wildfires for a while . . .
The trend toward larger, hotter wildfires in this part of the country is rapidly becoming the new normal.
In the four decades between 1960 and 1999, wildfires in the United States scorched more than 7 million acres in a single year just once. Since 2000? Eight times, with 2012 at 8.8 million acres and still climbing. The annual number of wildfires exceeding 25,000 acres in 11 Western states has quintupled since the 1970s, according to a Climate Central report released last month.
The causes, fire ecologists say, are simple enough. A century of fire suppression and traditional “pick-and-pluck” logging practices that removed the largest, most fire-resistant trees have transformed open stands of ponderosa pine into multi-tiered, lower-crowned forests of thinner-barked trees more susceptible to spruce budworm and bark beetle — and catastrophic wildfire.