What’s even better than a heat-resistant drone?
Stopping a fire before it starts.
The western United States faces huge wildfires every year. Leaders want those fires to shrink. Their plan is to clean up the forest.
How do you clean up a forest? You cut back underbrush and overgrowth. And sometimes, you burn that debris.
Yep—burning isn’t always bad. Native Americans once used fires to manage forests. They burned off small trees, grasses, and brush. But for much of the 1900s, officials tried to completely suppress forest fire. Now all that burnable forestland just sits waiting for a big, big fire.
That’s exactly what comes.
It’s better to have little fires you can control than gigantic fires you can’t. So forest managers return to some old ways. They cut some bigger trees for lumber. They burn some saplings and vegetation that grows close to the ground. Less growth means less fuel. That could mean smaller fires. Fires may not race through nearby cities and towns.
Of course, too much logging causes harm. Clear-cutting—cutting or bulldozing all trees and underbrush in an area—can destroy forests. It can let soil wash or blow away.
Responsible loggers find a balance. They make a living . . . and let forests live. They carefully choose an area to harvest. But they don’t take all the trees. They leave some to keep growing. These trees make seeds. Their baby trees will look like the parents—healthy and strong. Foresters want good logs and a healthy forest.
To stay healthy, forests need a good fire once in a while. Some species, such as the ponderosa pine, even need fire to reproduce! Fires clear out undergrowth. Sunlight can more easily reach the forest floor. Nutrient-rich ash left behind helps baby trees grow.