Israel is sharing expertise in battling forest fires in arid climates.
Every summer, Americans see the damage from wildfires in woodlands, fields, forests and national parks. Usually these wildfires come in the summer, after prolonged periods of drought, and last until the fall, when the potential for fire increases dramatically.
Things are especially bad this season where droughts in Southern California, the Southwest and on the East Coast are threatening more dangerous fires such as the one that devastated the area south of Denver, Colo.
The Jewish National Fund has gained an international reputation for its work with trees and forests during the past century and has been cooperating closely with the U.S. Forest Service for more than a decade, helping to improve the skills of foresters and firefighters who are battling the Colorado fire and other blazes.
Israel has contributed invaluable know-how and advice, particularly in managing fires in the pine and scrub oak forests of the Southwest.
“We take Israel’s depth of experience and apply it to our situation,” said Tom Hoeskstra of
the U.S. Forest Service. “Their experience in handling forest fire situations in arid environments has been of tremendous benefit.”
The devastation that vegetation suffers from wildfires is evident for decades after the fire ravages forest. Wildfires often spread to surrounding communities, destroying forests, but also private homes, businesses and property.
For example, visitors to Yellowstone National Park can see the devastation caused by wildfires that affect thousands of acres of trees. Firefighters are risking their lives every day fighting fires near Denver and the Northeast, devastated by a severe drought this past winter, is at risk for wildfires in its forest areas.
“With the expansion of urban areas into forested land combined with environmental changes, we will continue to see larger fires cause more damage and threaten more lives,” said Kenneth Foster, president of the International Arid Lands Consortium.
The Jewish National Fund also participates in the IALC, a cooperative program in technical education and research in forest management that includes six U.S. universities and the Egyptian and Jordanian governments.
The research of the IALC is aimed at promoting ecological sustainability, combined with public education in the importance of management tools such as thinning and controlled burns to eliminate potential fuel for fires.
Protecting our watersheds to help prevent catastrophic losses of soil, vegetation and wildlife is of utmost importance, Foster said.
The JNF and the IALC advise residents to avoid the risk of wildfires in woodlands, fields and parks. Be aware that periods of unusually low precipitation increase the likelihood of severe wildfires. If your region is experiencing a dry season, especially with high winds, exercise extra caution when in contact with any flammable materials.