Controlled burns or “prescribed fires” are used by trained firefighters to prevent wildfires in the Western United States by clearing away dried plant material that could potentially feed a natural, healthy fire.

Certain weather conditions are necessary for firefighters to execute controlled burns safely. They must be dry enough that fires can ignite, but not so windy or dry that more vegetation would catch fire than intended, a press release from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), said.

Daniel Swain, a UCLA climate scientist, led a new study that discovered that the times of year and overall number of days when firefighters can safely implement prescribed fires is being reduced by climate change.

Scientists’ current projection for planetary warming is two degrees Celsius by 2060, which Swain called “optimistic” considering the current trajectory, according to the press release. However, if the projections turned out to be correct, the number of days that would have favorable weather and vegetation conditions for prescribed fires would be reduced by an average of 17 percent across the Western U.S.

“We’re just not doing a lot of prescribed fire compared to what is needed, at scale, to really address the escalating wildfire crisis,” Swain said.

Wildfires in the Western U.S. have increased markedly due to factors like human development in areas susceptible to fire and climate change, making controlled burns even more important.

Read the full article about climate and wildfires by Cristen Hemingway Jaynes at EcoWatch.