26 Comments

  1. Sorry Larry, but what is the video saying?

    That when a human accidently, irresponsibly or intentionally starts a fire along a road on a 90 degree day, with humidity in the teens and winds topping 30 mph that landscapes suffering from prolonged drought will burn? 



    Also, since you’re so familiar with the Bitterroot National Forest you’re obviously aware of this fact, right?

    
“The Westside Collaborative Vegetation Management Project proposes to thin national forest lands along the wildland/urban interface between Lost Horse and Roaring Lion creeks. Once that project is completed, nearly all of the national forest lands that border private ground on the west side of the Bitterroot Valley will have been thinned.” (Source: Missoulian, June 2, 2016)

    Or how about this? I can’t think of a single timber sale on the westside of the Bitterroot Valley that’s been litigated in at least the past 18 years. Can you? In fact, I can only think of two Bitterroot National Forest timber sales that have been litigated in the past 18 years, and neither were anywhere near the westside of the Bitterroot Valley.

    And as was pointed out in the post about the Flathead National Forest plan revision, the U.S. Forest Service itself says that the largest limiting factor to increasing logging, or even meeting timber harvest goals, is a lack of funding from Congress. Maybe that’s what the video is saying.

    Oh, that and perhaps how important it is for homeowners who make the choice to build homes in the middle of forests and fireprone landscapes to take all possible FireWise steps.

      • It was my only intention to show the remarkable video. When was the last time you saw me type this few words in a blog posting here? I was not hostile. It wasn’t rhetoric. It was just an invitation to see the video and comment on it. That’s not being disingenuous, is it? JEEEEEEEEZ! People got real sensitive when I’ve been absent from posting.

  2. The thing that strikes me about the video is about how “normal” the fire was. Assuming weather was as Matthew K stated (hot, dry, wind driven), the behavior of this fire in a “V” drainage is typical. Yes, smoke and fire are breathtaking, but smoke is mostly steam, and the fire’s energy appears to have dissipated when it hit the flat valley floor. I think humans are generally astonished at the strength of episodic, natural events because they are outside our norms. I hesitate to say this, because if I’d been in Hamilton that day, it would have scared the crap out of me — but I suspect if you ask a lot of Type I fire dogs, they’d look at the video and say “So, what’s the big deal?”

    • Hi Jim,

      Yes, the high winds the were happening when the human-caused fire took off in the afternoon on Sunday were described in previous articles by the Ravalli County Sheriff on the scene and by former USFS district ranger Dave Campbell, who’s home is in the area (and survived because of his vigilant FireWise measures as described in the story linked below from Jon Haber). Here are snips from that original article, which ran Monday morning in the Missoulian:

      “Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman said the fire apparently started near the bottom of the drainage and spread immediately, driven by gusting winds.”

      “You could tell there was very unstable air,” Dave Campbell said. “When you see those fire whirls, you know it’s going to be a very difficult fire to fight.”

      Also, this morning’s Missoulian had this information about the wind:

      “Pushed by winds that included gusts up to 50 miles per hour, the Roaring Lion Fire grew nearly 3,000 acres last night.”

      To put wind gusts up to 50 mph in perspective, according to NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory “Damaging winds are classified as those exceeding 50-60 mph.”

  3. Bitterroot Planning or lack therof… Global Warming… No timber thinning… let’s get real people… the reason the forests are in such a mess is due to mis-management by the USFS. They have discovered (as I did long ago working on fires at the ‘accounting’ level) that there is WAY MORE $$$ to be made burning down the forests instead of having to deal with lawsuits every single time a timber sale is posted. These local Ranger Districts USED TO get their monetary budget from timber sales. But now… they post a timber sale and here come the lawsuits. By the time the lawsuit is settled and the USFS goes ahead with said timber sale… that local Ranger District is in the hole. BIG TIME. The losers, some environment group, don’t have to pay a thing for losing their lawsuit. Its EXTREMELY noteworthy that the two fires in the Bitterroot this year have burned PLANNED timber sales. I guess the USFS just gave up. Can’t blame them really. They came out on top monetarily on these ‘timber sales’ by burning them down. And before everyone jumps on my case about not being able to stop either this fire or the Observation Fire…. yeah.. I get it.. the Roaring Lion Fire couldn’t be stopped when it first started. BUT>>>> why are there NO air tankers specifically assigned to this fire? This fire, during the day today…BEFORE the winds kicked up…really could have been contained with a few air tanker drops of fire retardant. It kinda burned itself out and the fire lines on the East side…where the houses are.. were holding. But .. NOPE. There was really good visibility, the winds were calm… no air tankers. Like I stated earlier… Fire Fighting is now an industry… and its ALL about the $$$$ now. PS>>> there really WERE air tankers assigned specifically to the Observation Fire.

  4. Former FS ranger real life experience with defensible space:
    http://missoulian.com/news/local/saving-homes-defensible-space-around-hamilton-home-helps-save-home/article_fc309270-14e1-5915-aa13-c45db03c79a3.html

    A sample of one. But maybe we’ll be able to see how effective it was in the larger area by looking at which homes had been certified as defensible so that they could get insurance and fire protection. If there was such a thing …

  5. “The U.S. Forest Service itself says that the largest limiting factor to increasing logging, or even meeting timber harvest goals, is a lack of funding from Congress.”

    I find this statement absolutely ludicrous. Just imagine your local Safeway store having to send their daily receipts to the corporate office and then have to ask for money so they can resupply their shelves, fix the broken door, etc.! But, that seems to be the government’s model: sell trees, send the receipts to the US Treasury, and then beg Congress for the money to plan a timber sale, fix bridges, fight fires, treat fuels, etc.

    It would make a whole lot more sense if the local forest kept all the revenues it managed to generate to do the work it needs and then send the “profits”, if any, to the US Treasury. (Yes, I realize “profit” is a bad word when it comes to our forests.)

    [My sense of the video was simply – wow, look at the power and speed of that fire. It was merely one of awe.]

  6. Bad enviros! Bad lawsuits!
    Check today’s story on NPR: It debunks a popular myth – A private landowner (perhaps someone living in the WUI?) filed a suit – District Ranger was waiting for a court decision on the Observation Deck Salvage Sale – which BTW is not to be found on the Bitterroot NF’s NEPA page. I’d like to read the EA but can’t find it.
    http://www.npr.org/2016/08/04/488637675/for-mont-fire-evacuees-forest-thinning-didnt-happen-soon-enough

    Snipped from the story:

    WHITNEY (NPR reporter): Anderson blames lawsuits and the U.S. Forest Service for the problem. Outside a crowded public meeting, local district ranger Eric Winthers says the lack of logging is not for lack of trying.

    ERIC WINTHERS (District Ranger – Darby RD): You know, we’re always trying to do projects to reduce the danger of fire to the publics that live next door.

    WHITNEY: The project to thin the forest to prevent fires was in the works for five years. The Forest Service worked through local concerns and approved the project. There’s a popular perception here that environmentalists sue to stop every logging project on public land. That’s not true.

    In this case, right before the work was set to begin, an adjacent landowner sued because he didn’t want a road built across his property for the project. When the fire broke out Sunday, the Forest Service was waiting to see if a judge would allow the forest thinning to go forward. Firefighters don’t expect the roaring lion fire to be brought under control anytime soon. For NPR News, I’m Eric Whitney in Missoula.

    ANYONE with standing can exercise their legal rights — in this case it wasn’t obviously a radical enviro group. But perhaps the landowner is a Sierra Club member?

    • For whatever it’s worth, here’s what Ryan Domsalla, West Fork District Ranger of the Bitterroot National Forest said at the Western Governors’ National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative meeting in Missoula on September 21, 2016 about the Westside Collaborative Vegetation Project, ‘collaboration’ and the Bitterroot Restoration Committee.

      “This [the Westside Collaborative Vegetation Project] was one of the governor’s Forests in Focus Initiative Projects. We received about $136,900 for this. That particular (state) money was able to expedite the project as well as make it a priority for the Bitterroot National Forest…..The expedited nature of the project…. definitely curtailed the time that we had to do some collaboration with some adjacent landowners as well as with some of our stakeholders and user groups. You know, like I said, it didn’t allow us a lot of time to establish that trust, that communication that is necessary for truly honest and open collaboration. Certainly we worked with the State of Montana DNRC to move forward with much of the project prior to actually making the decision, which I think expedited things. But honest and truly I think we can do better there.”

      “The Bitterroot Restoration Committee actually works on a census basis. And have to admit my observation would be – on this particular project, as well as on certain other issues – I don’t believe that they’ve met that consensus at this point in time.”

      – Ryan Domsalla, West Fork District Ranger of the Bitterroot National Forest

      Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtySlCka6lY


      It should also be pointed out that apparently Wayne Hedman, chair of the Bitterroot Restoration Committee, has prevented a fellow Bitterroot Restoration Committee member from sharing this video and Ranger Ryan Domsalla’s comments with the rest of the Bitterroot Restoration Committee members. Why do you suppose that would be?

  7. I don’t follow your point. The forest spent 5 years planning a 2300 acre WUI thinning project that never happened. No fuel treatment would have been effective at stopping a fire with the extreme weather conditions that day. However, taking 5 years to plan a 2300 acre WUI thinning is a sign of a very very broken system.

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