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Research finds more spending on fire suppression may lead to bigger fires

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Researchers at MIT are now claiming that wildfire management is potentially causing more fires by focusing less on prevention and more on suppression.

Researchers at the MIT Engineering Systems Division are currently looking into regional fire data, such as the number of fires and the amount of land burned per year, in order to develop an accurate model as to how over-focus on suppression can undermine prevention efforts.

“We’ve done the analysis and found that this political effect is a regular thing, and you have to figure out how to break the cycle,” Professor Richard de Neufville told MIT News.

Although the current model is based on firefighting in Portugal, the overall basic structure may be fairly universal.

One of the big challenged will be convincing policymakers to look at how to split resources into equal parts prevention and, if need be, suppression.

“We’re seeing bigger fires, and longer fire seasons, and more houses and communities threatened than ever before because they’re out there in the path of the fires,” former director of the Office of Wildland Fire Coordination for the US Department of the Interior Mark Beighley said. “The need is so great to protect communities that there’s very little left for prevention. And that’s a cycle that will take some pain to break.”

The research is still ongoing.

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