Saturday, October 18, 2008

Wildfire news, October 18

Research: preventing fires produces fewer greenhouse gasses

From Northern Arizona University:
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (Oct. 17, 2008) -- Researchers at Northern Arizona University are discovering that some current forest carbon accounting strategies might be doing more environmental harm than good.

“Fire suppression policy and climate change are causing larger, more severe fires in many forests in the western United States, which release carbon to the atmosphere,” said Matthew Hurteau, a research associate in NAU’s Merriam Powell Center for Environmental Research.

Hurteau explained that since trees reduce climate change effects by storing carbon and not letting it loose into the air, emerging carbon accounting policies provide funding incentives for managing forests packed with trees. However, Hurteau supports thinning forests to protect them from fires that cause even greater amounts of carbon to be released into the air.

Research also suggests that forest fires release about 5 percent of total annual U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, a contribution equal to about one-third of the transportation sector.

“Current carbon accounting in California penalizes forest managers for thinning the forest because it reduces the amount of stored carbon in trees, but this same accounting does not penalize carbon emissions from wildfires,” Hurteau said. “By thinning and consolidating carbon in fewer trees, the forests are more resistant to fire spreading and becoming catastrophic.”

NAU’s research is revealing that thinning forests not only reduces the risks for catastrophic fires and the huge quantities of carbon dioxide that they release into the air, but that the thinned wood is possible fuel for electricity generation.

Hurteau used a computer model to study the century-long, tree-based carbon storage effects from eight forest treatments, with and without forest fires. The research revealed that unthinned forests did store the most carbon, but when wildfire was included, it not only reduced the number of trees available to store carbon, the fire caused a huge emission of carbon back into the air.

The research also examined four of the largest wildfires in the United States in 2002 and discovered that prior thinning could have reduced the amount of carbon released into the air by 98 percent.

San Diego: Boy arrested for starting fire that forced evacuations

From San Diego 6:
A 15-year-old Morse High School student is in Juvenile Hall, charged with arson.

According to fire officials, the boy lit a small bush on fire with a lighter in the Bay Terraces Canyon which then got out of control.

The canyon is north of Bullock Drive and east of Woodman Street in the Bay Terraces area.

Firefighters say it began spreading shortly before 2:30 Friday afternoon, threatening ridge-top neighborhoods and prompting evacuations of the campus and dozens of residences.

Tom Deguzman was one of the people who left his house. He told San Diego 6 News, "So I went out and then I notice the fire is almost close to my place -- to my yard."

Patrol officers cleared residents out of homes ringing Paradise Canyon Park, SDFRD spokesman Maurice Luque said. Administrators at the high school, meanwhile, evacuated everyone from the campus, where classes had let out for the day a short time earlier.
The two CL-415 Superscooper air tankers leased by the county reloaded (re-scooped?) at Sweetwater Reservoir which was only 2-1/2 miles away from the fire.

From the San Diego Union-Tribune:
......The fire department's two helicopters were joined by the two Superscooper water bombers leased by the county for the fire season in making nearly continuous drops of water and fire-suppressing foam until the flames were finally knocked down.

Even after the fire was extinguished, the tanker and copter crews continued to make drops, sometimes less than 100 feet above the ground, baring their sirens as a warning just before they made their drops.

The additional drops were a precaution, Luque said, saturating the remaining foliage in the canyon to prevent any lingering hot spots from flaring up.

No homes were lost or damaged and no injuries were reported, but the outcome might have been much different if the attack had been confined to the ground, Luque said.

“Without the air support, the potential for losing homes was definitely there,” he said.

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