Jack Cohen in the USDA Forest Service's Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory in Missoula, Montana.
In the “Perspectives” feature in the new November/December NFPA Journal, prominent fire scientist Jack Cohen talks about the discoveries that he and a team of researchers at the USDA Forest Service’s Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory in Montana have made about wildfire spread.
Their breakthroughs, published in July in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, have called into question some long-held beliefs about wildfire dynamics and suggest that most models for how wildfire spreads are based on a false narrative.
In the Journal article, called “Flame Fundamentals,” Cohen explains in detail why understanding wildfire spreads is crucial for protecting firefighters, communities and the environment. The knowledge could also allow fire officials be more selective in which fires they extinguish and which they let burn naturally. That’s important, Cohen says, because “our cultural kneejerk approach of eliminating fire at all cost” by suppressing every possible fire has resulted in a fuel-rich landscape primed for big, uncontrollable wildfires. One has to look no further than the huge and costly 2015 wildfire season for proof.