Podcast Episode 13 - Predicting Fire in the Great Basin

June 16th, 2023

With a winter characterized by substantial precipitation and robust vegetation growth in the Great Basin, many are curious about the implications for the upcoming fire year.

On Episode 13 of the Living With Fire Podcast, Christina Restaino, Assistant Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, engaged in a discussion with Joe Smith, a research scientist at the University of Montana, and Jeremy Maestas from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, about the connection between rain, snow, and fire risk in the Great Basin.

Smith and Maestas are part of a team of researchers who have developed a new tool to predict wildfire probability in the Great Basin. This tool incorporates historical data and current conditions to provide fire probability maps, offering valuable insights for Land Managers in the region.

Maestas highlighted the impact of the increased vegetation growth, explaining, “All this growing vegetation production is going to build up out there and there's no amount of livestock and insects in the world that are going to eat it all. So, it'll build up on the landscape and probably show up next year in the fire probability maps."

Discussing the natural wet and dry cycles that characterize the Great Basin, Maestas and Smith shared their findings. Smith's research, based on 32 years of data, shed light on the implications of these patterns for potential fires. "We should be particularly concerned when transitioning from a wet cycle to a dry one," Smith advised.

What does all this mean for Great Basin residents? Restaino suggested a proactive approach, emphasizing the importance of creating defensible spaces around homes and collaborating with the community. This preparation will help residents stay vigilant in the face of potential fire risks in the coming year.


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