Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wildfire news, August 27

Salvage logging, yes or no?

There is quite a debate going on in the comments section in response to an opinion piece on Redding.com which quotes sections of an article on "Science Daily", titled "Salvage Logging, Replanting Increased Biscuit Fire Severity". Some people are questioning the "science" behind the "Science Daily" article.

The graduate student who authored the Science Daily article was quoted as saying, contrary to conventional wisdom:
Typical fuel treatments such as thinning do not have much effect on fire risk in young forests, Thompson said. There are ongoing experiments within the Biscuit Fire region to test the effectiveness of fuel breaks for slowing the spread of severe fires.
From the Redding.com piece:
According to an article published on June 12, 2007, in Science Daily, salvage logging may not be the best activity to protect our forests. A study conducted by the Oregon State University Department of Forest Science examined the effects of salvage logging in Oregon forests after fires. The study reported that in the past, forest managers assumed that removing dead trees would reduce fuel loads and planting conifers could hasten the return of fire-resistant forests.

What the analysis in this study revealed is that, "after accounting for the effects of topography, Silver Fire severity and other environmental variables, the Biscuit Fire severity was higher where they had done salvage logging and planting."
Thanks to Bob for the tip.

Steve Arno receives award from SAF

Steve Arno, retired from the Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula and author of five books, is the pre-eminent wildfire ecology expert in the Northern Rockies, according to the Society of American Foresters. They are giving him one of seven Barrington-Moore Memorial awards this year for accomplishments in wildfire ecology and biological research.

Here is an excerpt from an article in the Missoulian:
Arno and other foresters say they're making progress in educating the West's burgeoning human population about fire's benefits, but it's a never-ending task as the number of newcomers continues to grown.

“Ever since Earth Day in 1970, there's been this back to the land movement and a lot of people saying, ‘Every tree is sacred' and ‘I want it natural,' ” he said.

“They have this pristine idea of what nature is, but it's all based on the erroneous belief that nature doesn't need managing. They really have no idea of what natural is. We're winning more and more people over to the idea of managed forests, but it's like baling out a boat that's taking on water - you have to keep at it.”

Arno has been busy since he retired from the Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula. His books include ” Flames in Our Forest” and “Mimicking Nature's Fire,” which looked at the historic role of wildfires in Western forests and how to restore the natural role of fire.
Thanks to Dick for the tip.

Gunbarrel fire

Pushed by strong winds yesterday the fire grew by a couple of thousand acres and 100 people yesterday as Paul Broyles' Type 1 incident management team assumed command and ramped up to handle the increased fire activity. They had to move the incident command post to accommodate the additional personnel, never a fun thing to do, relocating to Buffalo Bill State Park nine miles west of Cody, Wyoming on Highway 14-16-20.

The strategy of the fire has changed from Fire Use to Confine/Contain. Yesterday firefighters completed a burnout above the Elephant Head Lodge, while today they expect to be busy defending homes in the upper portions of the Jim Mountain, Jim Creek, and Big Creek areas, as well as cabins and lodges on the fire’s west end, in the Libby Creek area. The fire has now consumed 57,384 acres.

Firefighters apply foam and install sprinklers at Goff Creek Lodge, August 26. Photo by Michael Johnson.

Professor's body found in burned Idaho home

Wildfire Today covered this yesterday, but now the body has been identified as that of Mary Ellen Ryder.

Mike Quinno watched the Oregon Trail Fire race through a quarter-mile of dry grass toward his house on Sweetwater Drive in seconds.

He stood on his deck Monday night, set back a few feet from the rim of the steep ridge that dropped into the grass and sagebrush flats. Fire burns fastest when it burns uphill. When the wind-driven blaze reached the bottom of the ridge, the flames exploded.

"The fire flew up over my head," Quinno said.

A dozen houses along the rim to the north, Pete Ryder was watching "Monday Night Football" with his wife, Mary Ellen, when he saw smoke in his backyard at 3594 Immigrant Pass Court. When he went outside to check, his backyard erupted in flames so sudden and intense he couldn't get back inside.

In seconds, flames surrounded his home, forcing Ryder to the end of his driveway. His wife was nowhere to be seen.

"When I got to the front of the house and didn't see her, I didn't think she got out."

Mary Ellen Ryder was the one fatality in a fire that destroyed nine homes in the Oregon Trail Heights subdivision and another in the adjacent Columbia Village in Southeast Boise. It also damaged nine other homes on the Bench.

The speed of the fire, the fierce winds and the location, landscaping and construction of the houses helped make it one of Boise's worst fires ever.

The fire did not catch Boise firefighters unprepared.

They had pre-planned how to fight a fire in the area, said Dennis Doan, Boise fire chief. They arrived at Sweetwater Drive within two minutes of the first call. By then, two houses were ablaze.

"From the minute they caught on fire, it was only seconds until the next house," Doan said. "The flames were laying sideways all the way across the street with multiple houses on fire."

Firefighters risked their lives to "draw a line" between the burning houses and the rest of the more than 1,000 homes in the subdivisions near Columbia Village, he said.
The rest of the story is HERE.
Photo courtesy of Idaho Statesman

Fire in the heart of Redding

A vegetation fire in Redding, California burned 130 acres and caused evacuations near the Sacramento River.

North winds gusting up to 30 mph pushed the flames near homes, apartments, condominiums, and an elementary school where classes were in session.

Helicopter pilot spots arsonist
A helicopter pilot dropping water on a wildland blaze Friday in the Mendocino National Forest in northern California spotted a man in camouflage clothing starting a fire.

The helicopter immediately suspended firefighting operations and called law enforcement officers to the scene, who were already nearby getting ready to conduct marijuana eradication operations.

U.S. Forest Service rangers and Mendocino County sheriff's deputies located the man close to the origin of the fire and took him into custody on suspicion of arson.

He was identified as a resident of Mexico, but not named in a forest service press release.

Evidence found on the man indicated he was associated with marijuana cultivation in the area. He admitted starting the fires, but said others were with him.

The Island Fire charred about 50 acres, and was brought under containment at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Officials are conducting an investigation into the fire, and looking for others who may have been working with the man arrested Friday.
Body found in Southern California brush fire

After firefighters suppressed a 4-acre fire near Malibu last night, they noticed a vehicle in the fire and upon further investigation, found a dead body inside. Detectives were sent to investigate the circumstances of the man's death.

About a half-hour later a fire broke out at the same location that consumed about a quarter-acre of brush before being doused by city and county firefighters.

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