Current wildfire policy can’t adequately protect people, homes and ecosystems from the longer, hotter fire seasons caused by climate change, according to a recent research paper led by CU Boulder.

Efforts to extinguish every blaze and reduce the buildup of deadwood are becoming increasingly inadequate. Instead, the authors, led by Tania Schoennagel, a research scientist at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR), urge policymakers and communities to embrace reforms that will promote adaptation to increasing wildfire and warming.

Some of their recommendations might be unpopular, such as allowing more fires to burn in wildland areas and intentionally setting more fires to reduce natural fuels. They argue that forest-thinning projects should be targeted to specific areas, instead of being widely used. And they suggest reforms to federal, state and local policies on land use and development to limit expansion of communities into fire-prone areas.

“We have to learn that wildfire is inevitable, in the same way that droughts and flooding are,” Schoennagel says. “We’ve tried to control fire, but it’s not a control we can maintain. Like other natural disasters, we have to learn to adapt.”