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Understanding fire dynamics

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Don’t fear living in the forest but learn to live smart

There is a personal irony associated with the Las Conchas and Cerro Grande fires.
Meanwhile, the jury is out on forest recovery and what the future holds for unburned parts of our beloved Jemez Mountains, especially if prolonged drought, a return to drier norms or, as many fear, global warming, continue the wildfire legacy begun with the 1996 Dome Fire.
Las Conchas also begs the question of when mountain homeowners will “get it,” that they must realize that that proliferation of often sick, stunted trees snuggled near their homes is dangerous — and unnatural.  
Too, there is the dangerous trend in many subdivisions of narrow, winding roads bordered by heavy timber.
If the state’s biggest wildfire, 10 times larger than the 1977 La Mesa near Los Alamos, the biggest to that date, doesn’t convey the threat from fires that are “manmade” beyond just the spark that ignites them, what does?
The personal irony is that few journalists have written as much about the volatility of the Southwest’s mid-elevation ponderosa and lower-elevation pinyon/juniper forests.  
I wrote my first such story in 1995, as researchers at Bandelier National Monument and Los Alamos National Laboratory began to voice concerns about area forests.  


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