Environmental Speaker Series Presents: NOT FIERY ENOUGH

Why the Modern Era of Large Wildfires in Eastern Oregon and Washington Actually Needs More Fire

Bright red and orange flames erupt in a forest as smoke rises from the smoldering forest floor.

Event Details




Online: Zoom

And In-Person at WWU



Brought to you by:

College of the Environment, WWU Alumni Association


Check out this video to watch the Not Fiery Enough.

Wildfires and fire seasons are commonly cast as good or bad based largely on the simple metric of area burned (more acres = bad). A seemingly paradoxical narrative frames large fire seasons as a symptom of a forest health problem (too much fire), while simultaneously stating that fire-dependent forests lack sufficient fire to maintain system resilience (too little fire).

One key to resolving this paradox is placing contemporary fire years in the context of historical fire regimes, considering not only total fire area but also how severely the fires burn. Historical regimes can also inform forest restoration efforts by illuminating how much fire area historically maintained (i.e., ‘treated’) fire-resilient landscapes.

In this talk Daniel Donato will compare modern wildfire years in eastern Oregon and Washington to historical rates of burning (prior to widespread Euro-American arrival). Contrary to the common narrative of unprecedented or too-much fire in our dry forest landscapes today, modern fire years are only burning a small fraction of a typical historical year, when hundreds of thousands of acres burned annually on average.

With current forest restoration efforts also occurring at a fraction of historical fire ‘treatment’ rates, these findings highlight the potential need for managed fire to contribute if restoration and maintenance are to ultimately succeed. As such, ‘good’ fire years may be those not with less, but rather more, area burned – with characteristic severity and patch distributions, minimal clearly-negative impacts (e.g. loss of life and property), and contribution to forest restoration and maintenance objectives.

The Environmental Speaker Series is free and open to the public. Talks are held each Thursday at 4:30pm in Academic Instructional Center West, room 204. Paid parking is available in lot C. Or join us online on Zoom!


Close up of Daniel Donato's face. He has white skin, brown eyes, and a warm smile. Forest trees are in the background.

Daniel Donato, Speaker

Daniel Donato is a Natural Resource Scientist with the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and Affiliate Assistant Professor at the University of Washington, School of Environmental and Forest Science. He conducts research and monitoring on disturbances and structural development of forests across Washington state. Daniel has been studying what he calls “mayhem in the forest” (fire, wind, bugs) in the Pacific Northwest and beyond for about 25 years. When he is not chasing wildfires, he can usually be found seeking the wildest places in the PNW, chasing elk around the hills, dipping an oar in the water, or carving out his homestead in the forest.

Accommodations and Other Details

Contact the WWU Alumni Association for this event. Feel free to call at (360) 650-3353 or email at alumni@wwu.edu if you have any questions or comments.

Advance notice for disability accommodations and special needs is greatly appreciated. Please indicate your special needs on the registration form.

There will be auto-captions available for the Zoom webinar.

Limited paid parking is available in the C lots at the south end of campus and in lots 6V and 7G at the north end of campus. Western provides comprehensive parking details—including lot locations, fees, and campus map.