Highland Wonders: Era of Megafires with Dr. Paul Hessburg

John Marshall/submitted photo The devastating Tumwater Fire.

John Marshall/submitted photo
The devastating Tumwater Fire.

Submitted by Julie Vanderwall & Andy Dappen

Okanogan Highlands Alliance

TONASKET – The Era of Megafires, a 60-minute multimedia presentation featuring Dr. Paul Hessburg, a Hessburg, a research landscape ecologist with Pacific Northwest (PNW) Research Station will be held at the Tonasket Community Cultural Center on Friday, April 6 at 6:30 p.m.

In this multimedia presentation, Dr. Hessburg explains that over the past decade, the number of large, severe wildfires has been on the rise. These megafires are wildfires that burn more than 100,000 acres; they can destroy or severely damage human communities, wildlife habitat, and natural resources. This special presentation conveys the conditions that lead to megafires and how they might be managed or mitigated. This Highland Wonders event is being brought to the community by the Okanogan Highlands Alliance (OHA), North 40 Productions and the US Forest Service (along with a long list of additional supporting partners).

North 40 Productions/submitted photo Prescribed burning from North 40 Productions Era of Megafires.

North 40 Productions/submitted photo
Prescribed burning from North 40 Productions Era of Megafires.

Hessburg’s work has been published extensively in leading scientific journals over the past 30 years, but recently he’s felt a tug to take his findings public. The impetus stems from how favorite forests near his home in Central Washington had been ravaged by large and atypical wildfires. One of those fires, The Carlton Complex Fire, became the biggest megafire (one larger than 100,000 acres) in state history when it burned 256,000 acres and destroyed 322 homes. A year later in 2015, his hometown of Wenatchee lost 30 upscale homes and several warehouses in the Sleepy Hollow Fire. The narrative draws from Hessburg’s research over recent decades, explores the use of several tools, and discusses the trade-off between wild and prescribed fire smoke.

“A future without wildfire isn’t an option,” Hessburg said. “So, what kind of future do we want for our forests? The goal of this project is to share a vocabulary and increase the understanding and ability of ordinary citizens so that they can enter into local discussions and planning for a more certain future for our forestlands.”

Since June 2016, the Era of Megafires presentation has reached 86 cities and towns and more than 25,000 citizens. There is also a presentation on www.ted.com with over 850,000 views, at http://bit.ly/2zvIsFh.

In addition to the free presentation, a dinner of baked chicken, roasted garlic/rosemary potatoes, green beans, salad and garlic bread will be available for $8 for Community Cultural Center (CCC) members and $9 for non-members. The dinner benefits the CCC and is available at 5 p.m. The meal is coordinated by Brian Sanderson. There will also be a reception with tea, coffee and desserts, by donation to the CCC, at 6 p.m. and then the free presentation at 6:30 p.m. The Community Cultural Center of Tonasket is located at 411 S Western Ave

To support OHA’s work, such as these free programs, community members can purchase Highland Voices, an album of original local music at okanoganhighlands.org/music/highland-voices or on CD baby, iTunes, or Amazon. The album features the music of Laura Love, Dana Lyons, Stephen “Sundog” Lanigan, Ken Bevis, Harvey Swanson, Lonnie Good, Tyler Graves, :D igital:Deb, Julie Du Bois, Sandy Vaughn, Reed Engel, Steve Kinzie, Hippies on Vacation, Cheatgrass (the Hydes), and more! It is also available on Spotify (to listen for free) and at the Tonasket Natural Foods Co-op (to buy a CD).

North 40 Productions/submitted photo A sidewalk assessment of a home for fire safety from the North 40 Production of "Era of Megafires."

North 40 Productions/submitted photo
A sidewalk assessment of a home for fire safety from the North 40 Production of “Era of Megafires.”

This educational event is provided by OHA, and hosted at the CCC. OHA is a non-profit organization that works to raise public awareness about watershed issues. The Highland Wonders educational series features the natural history of the Okanogan Highlands and surrounding areas. OHA’s Education Program is designed to build the community’s capacity for environmental stewardship by increasing understanding of local natural history through a variety of free public learning opportunities.

For more information about the Era of Megafires, visit www.eraofmegafires.com. For more information about the Tonasket event, visit www.okanoganhighlands.org/education/hw or contact julie@okanoganhighlands.org / 509-476-2432. Past Highland Wonders event videos are available on YouTube on the channel, “OHA’s Highland Wonders.”


About Julie Vanderwal

Julie Vanderwal (Ashmore) is the Conservation Coordinator for the Okanogan Highlands Alliance www.okanoganhighlands.org