Fighting fires is by no means a simple business. Factors ranging from what started the blaze to the amount of humidity in the air can have a drastic impact on the different techniques used to manage and extinguish an inferno. However, it would seem to be common sense that the number one goal when it comes to a large-scale blaze is putting it out.
However, in some cases, it is just the opposite. Steve Romero, the Pecos and Las Vegas District’s Ranger, has been dealing with a particularly large burning that has come to be known as the Commissary Fire, named for Commissary Creek where lightning struck and ignited the fire. For Pecos the goal is not always putting out the fires, but sometimes managing a more controlled blaze.
“Every once in a while, you need to clean house. nature is like that, too,” he said. Allowing the fires to burn can help to change the diversity of the local ecosystem and is a natural part of nature’s own management system.
According to Romero the fires will impact the populations of bear, cougar, bobcat, deer, elk, and many others that call the forest home. At the same time, it will open up opportunities for different species to take hold of the newly cleared areas and for different kinds of trees like Aspen to grow and bring diversity to the local flora and fauna.
Alongside the benefits to the ecosystem, the fire will also help to prevent larger and more disastrous fires from occurring. By allowing smaller more controlled burns that don’t threaten private lands, rangers create a series of dead spots that destroy excess dry timber and brush.
Without fuel, a fire will eventually burn out, and creating gaps in the forests will stop burns in there tracks. Allowing the Commissary fire to burn in a controlled manner could very well save more trees than would be lost to controlled burns.