Land & Environment

Wildfire Research Focus of June 22 USU Research Landscapes Virtual Event

By Thomas Sorenson |

Larissa Yocom stands with a clipboard in the forest while conducting field work. Yocom will present on the latest wildfire science and management at Research Landscapes on June 22, 2021. Photo by Wyatt Archer.

Utah State University Research Landscapes will host "Fire in the West — Appreciating the Inevitable, Event, Tuesday, June 22. The virtual event, held via Zoom at 11:30 a.m., will highlight the work of Larissa Yocom, an assistant professor in the Department of Wildland Resources in the S.J. & Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources.

“We got rid of fire for so long we thought we had it vanquished,” Yocom said. “For much of the 20th century we didn't have to think about fire very much. And now with climate change and the huge number of fuels and homogeneous forests that we have, we have really set the perfect stage for a lot of problem fire.”

Fire is a beneficial part of many ecosystems, but recent decades have seen an influx of people moving into the wildland-urban interface, setting the stage for more "disaster fires" that affect the places where many Utahns live, work and play.

The threat of disaster fires is magnified this year as most of the state faces extreme drought conditions; the early wildfire season is already pacing ahead of previous years. With research in how forests, fire, climate and people interact, Yocom will provide insights into how state and community decision-makers can best manage fire risk to humans.

Because it can be counterproductive to remove all fire from the landscape, adjusting public perception of fire as a natural and necessary tool will help Utahns better manage the state’s landscapes, said Yocom.

“Fire is really one of the best tools that we have to reduce fuels and try to influence the way that fires will burn in the future,” said Yocom. “It’s an inevitable part of our ecosystems. It will burn, and we have a little bit of choice in how it burns and when it burns, but not whether it’s going to burn."

Yocom will give a live presentation at the event, during which she'll discuss the latest in wildfire science and management, including:

  • Which aspects of the "fire triangle" can be controlled.
  • Using fire as a tool to limit "disaster fires."
  • Fuel management to reduce severity of fires.
  • Focusing less on the number of acres burned and more on human impact.

The event will also feature a live question-and-answer session with Yocom. Both segments of the event will be hosted through a Zoom link that will be provided upon RSVP. Those interested in attending can submit their RSVP on the USU Research Landscapes website.

Yocom and her research were also featured in a recent episode of the Instead podcast, produced by the USU Office of Research. The episode is available on the podcast website or popular podcast apps.

Rachael McBride, Angelia Klein, Christine Brown (U.S. Forest Service), Eric LaMalfa and Larissa Yocom, on a survey of fuel loads in designated pieces of forest service land that are potential sites for prescribed burns. Photo by Wyatt Archer.


Thomas Sorenson
Research Team Lead
Office of Research


Thomas Sorenson
Research Team Lead
Office of Research


Research 649stories Environment 165stories

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