How much forest burns in a historic fire season, or two?
Conservation Northwest / Mar 23, 2016 / Wildfire
By George Wooten, Conservation Associate
For two years in a row, Washington has experienced the largest fires in our state’s history. In especially dry conditions, fires burned across heavily logged industrial timber lands as well as pristine and managed national forests. But that’s only part of the story.
These fires crossed a significant amount of grasslands, shrub-steppe, and other non-forested areas. Last summer’s fires across north-central Washington burned over a million acres; almost half (45 percent) was grasslands, shrub-steppe, or agricultural lands (Figure 1). The year before, in the 2014 Carlton Complex Fire, the vast majority of lands burned (75 percent) were grass, shrub-steppe, and agricultural lands (Figure 2).
Plenty of people assume wildfires burn only in forests. As the smoke clears, a different picture emerges.