WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.
Dr. Brenda McComb says Smokey Bear has done a good job preventing forest fires. Too good.
McComb is an accomplished academic, and a pioneer in Oregon transgender rights. She served as a dean and vice provost at Oregon State University. She's also an expert on a subject a lot of people around here are debating: forest management.
McComb observes that the immense wildfires consuming Oregon's Cascade Range this September are fueled in part by pristine Douglas fir forests that haven't been touched by fire in decades. That, she says, is a problem—because the undergrowth in these forests has grown too thick and fuels frenzied megafires that devour anything in their path.
The solution? Smaller fires.
In this interview with WW editor and publisher Mark Zusman, McComb describes how controlled burns might prevent some of the destruction seen over the past week, why climate change makes such a policy more urgent, and the obstacles that kept Oregon from trying this more often.