Newswise — Wildfires burn, on average more than four million acres annually in the U.S., according to Shep Zedaker, professor of forestry in the College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech. "Their damage has increased in intensity because past fire suppression policies have allowed the accumulation of fuel in the form of fallen leaves and excessive plant overgrowth."
Topology and weather are also factors. Regarding the Station fire in California, Zedaker said that because of the 40-years of buildup of tinder dry fuel, "If it was late September-November, and the Santa Anna Winds were up, there would be hundreds or even thousands of homes destroyed because of the Station fire, not 60 or 70."
Zedaker's research interests include wildland fire ecology and protection. One of the nation's experts on forest fires, he often accompanies the U.S. Forest Service or the Virginia Department of Forestry when a disaster occurs.
Topics he can address include:* Fire Effects on the Environment * Fire Weather/Fire Behavior * Fire Danger Rating System * Fire Suppression Basics * Prescribed Fire
He also teaches "Wildland Fire: Ecology and Management;" and "Forest Protection," which includes fire management, forest fire behavior and fire weather. The second course includes conducting a prescribed burn to provide knowledge of prescribed burning techniques and fire control methodology, or students may participate in a wildfire control effort as a substitution for the prescribed burning lab.
The Fire Management section of Forest Protection is designed to provide forestry students with basic knowledge of how fire impacts forest environments and how the environment influences fire behavior. An in-depth knowledge of the influences of weather on fire behavior is critical to the use of fire as a forest management tool and for safe and efficient fire suppression.
Learn more about Dr. Zedaker at: http://www.forestry.vt.edu/Faculty/ShepZedaker.html