North Cascades National Park Fire Regime

Fire is a powerful, seemingly magical force. A carelessly discarded cigarette, an unsupervised cooking flame or lightning can cause destruction and even death. In the skillfull hands of the park's fire team, however, fire becomes a useful tool of prevention and preservation. Prescribed burns are used to protect the wilderness by thinning out underbrush and small trees, thus reducing the danger of high-risk areas.

The fire team monitors and, when necessary, manages natural wildfires. The regime recognizes fire as an essential element of change in the ecosystem. Usually sparked by lightning strikes, wildfires actually benefit the forest by thinning out small, weak trees thus clearing the way for new growth. Past policies of wildfire suppression in many parks actually worked against the wilderness by creating an unnaturally high accumulation of fuel that can lead to large scale uncontrollable destruction.

Fire is like a double-edged sword, which is, on one hand, a tool that can be used for protection while, on the other, a destructive and deadly force if mismanaged. Fortunately, the park's fire program works constantly to limit artificial effects on the natural balance of fire and simultaneously protect people and forest communities.

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