A “perfect storm” or the “new normal”?: Seeking resilience among Southern Appalachian forests and people after epic fire”
View the video of this talk on the Department of Geography Coffee Hour Channel
About the talk
Wildland fire has long been a part of the Southern Appalachian landscape, but for decades wildfires were kept small with limited impacts to communities. But the area burned has sharply increased in recent decades and this resurgence reached a crescendo in the hot drought of 2016 when over 140,000 acres burned across state, federal and private lands. These fires forced the evacuation of thousands and led to an unprecedented and costly suppression effort. Tennessee’s Sevier County fires, in particular, destroyed 2,400 structures, killed 14 and injured hundreds, suggesting there is a pressing need for adaptation. Yet community and urban forest resilience are arguably more about “mountain tough” rebuilding than adaptive remaking. This presentation will review what we know about fire in this region, map the pattern of problematic fire that seems to be emerging, then communicate the various causes of our shifting fire regime in a way that relates to what can be done to mitigate risks.
About the speaker
Steve Norman is a Research Ecologist with the US Forest Service’s Southern Research Station in Asheville, North Carolina. Originally from northern Pennsylvania, he attended Penn State where he received his PhD in Geography in 2002, then he began work with the Forest Service in northern California specializing in fire history and risk assessment. He moved to North Carolina in 2007 where he now refines ways to make remote sensing more useful for forest managers.