After a wildfire in the West, the same terrain could burn again in as soon as 10 to 20 years, according to a new study looking at nearly 30 years of wildfires from California to Colorado – including the biggest wildfire in Colorado's history (the 2002 Hayman Fire, which burned nearly 215 square miles, burned 133 homes and was responsible for killing six people). "This is not a place that should be considered a fire break any longer," said Brian Buma, Assistant Professor of Integrative Biology.
"We found that typically across the entire U.S. West, you get a reprieve essentially of being likely to burn again for about 10 to 20 years, depending on your location," Buma said.
Additionally, Buma recently published, “Coarse wood inhibits debris flow runout in forested southeast Alaska,” in Earth Surface Processes and Landforms (Booth A, Sifford C, Siebert C, Buma B. 2020, DOI 10.1002/esp.4830). This research focuses on how landslides kill thousands each year, mainly in developing countries but also along the coasts and in mountainous areas of the United States. This highly interdisciplinary work - linking forest ecology with geomorphologists - found that structure and shape matter, and cities below large statured forests are a safer than those in more open landscapes as runout is shorter and stops on steeper slopes. The results will help guide community planning and risk assessment.