As climate change is fingered as a culprit behind the early rash of forest fires across northern and western Canada, experts say the most prudent approach at this stage is to, whenever possible, let the fires burn.
It’s a grim situation. But those studying the issue say the human toll of wildfire needs to be balanced against the reality that vulnerable forests are going to burn either way — especially given the mounting pressures presented by climate change.
“The question becomes, if we’ve got areas where fire can burn, the most responsible thing to do ecologically, fiscally and for long-term health is to let those fires burn,” said Toddi Steelman, executive director of the School of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Saskatchewan.
“If we don’t let them burn, we have to pay that account down the line … the forest will burn eventually.”