University of Arizona

Tree-Ring Research

Forest Fire Management

in the Southwest
fire history logo
A grand debate in forest management exists throughout the West, especially in the Southwest: What to do about wild land fire?

The problem:

  • Forest fires today tend to be large and hot, often destroying many natural and human resources.
  • By contrast, past forest fires used to burn mostly as low-intensity surface fires
  • What can be done now to rectify this situation?
The Issues of Wildland Fire:

  1. Current fire behavior
    What is the current pattern of forest fires? Click here to learn about current patterns of fire frequency and behavior.
  2. Past fire patterns
    What is the past pattern of forest fires? Click here to learn about past patterns of fire frequency and behavior, as told from the dendrochronological (tree-ring) record.
  3. Overview
    How and why have forest fires changed through time? Click here to learn about how fire occurrence and behavior in Southwest forests have changed during the past 100+ years.
  4. Prescribed fire
    One management option is to start fires on purpose and/or allow natural fires to burn without suppression. Click here to learn about prescribed fire management.
    • What about the smoke?
      Any management strategy using fire to fight fire must consider the issue of smoke. How to mitigate the smoke of wildland fires? Click here to learn about the smoke issue that clouds fire management.
  5. Mechanical Thinning
    Other ways to reduce fuel loads include cutting out trees and undergrowth. Click here to learn of ways to mechanically reduce the forest fuel buildup.
  6. Communities doing something
    Forest communities of the Southwest, and the West generally, are taking action to improve forest health by reducing fuel loading and re-introducing fire into nearby forests. Click here for examples.

Geosciences 220 writing assignment: Click here for specific instructions to the Geosciences 220 writing assignment.

  • For reading the PDF files, Adobe Acrobat Reader is needed; it's available free from HERE: Adobe logo
  • Many of the PDF files are password protected, to restrict access to students in designated classes.

Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona 85721 USA
Main Office: (520) 621-1608, Fax: (520) 621-8229
Comments to Paul Sheppard: sheppard @