Paul Hessburg, forest fires in western United States and Mega Fires

To burn or not to burn? That is the question fire ecologist Paul Hessburg poses to audiences in small towns across the western United States.

I photographed him for a Weather Channel feature story, Oregon Megafire Man, in John Day, Oregon.  There he spoke about the rise of Mega Fires in the western United States, and what we can do to combat them.

business woman listening to Paul Hessburg, forest fire mega fire presentation
Paul Hessburg, forest fires in western United States and Mega Fires

Paul Hessburg advocates for local populations to take control of their fire safety plans in a era when fires are burning hotter, stronger and larger than ever.  Mega Fires are an unintended consequence of decades of fire supression, leaving unnaturally large amounts of combustible fuel on forest floors. Soil profiles in North America contain a strong historical record indicating 4-10% of North American forest land burned in any given year prior to fire suppression policies.

We visited a recent site that came perilously close to burning down the city of John Day, two years ago.  There he talked about the resiliency of the ecosystem to respond, and thrive, after fires. On the ground and along a small creek, new growth flourishes aided by nutrients left behind from the fire.

Paul Hessburg, forest fires in western United States and Mega Fires
Paul Hessburg, forest fire burnt tree bark

Passions run deep regarding how to combat the rise of mega fires. Fire suppression over the past 75 years is now seen as the primary reason today’s fires are growing more intense. One solution is to let nature take its course and allow some fires to burn naturally. Other solutions include selected logging and grazing, and creating buffer zones around towns and structures.

Learn more by watching Paul Hessburg’s TED Talk here.

All images and content Copyright 2018 Adam Bacher.  Absolutely no usage without prior consent.

As a Portland Oregon photographer specializing in editorial photography, I’m available for photography assignments large and small.  Please contact me the next time you need a photographer ready to travel to your location across the country or around the world.