Some of the fuels folks I’ve spoken with think you shouldn’t bother doing mechanical fuels treatment (in forests) unless you also do prescribed burning. The question to me is whether prescribed burning is 1) the only way or 2) the best possible, sort of the gold standard, but in some cases, fuel treatments can work without prescribed burning.
When you think about the world of fine fuels, it is easy to think about subdivisions and how we don’t run fires through them. So I looked at Firewise. In Firewise Zone 3, 100-200 feet from the house, it tells you here
“Zone 3 (High Hazard Areas) Thin this area, although less space is required than in Zone 2. Remove smaller conifers that are growing between taller trees. Remove heavy accumulation of woody debris. Reduce the density of tall trees so canopies are not touching*.”
Which sounds like getting rid of “heavy accumulations”, not exactly the same as burning, or mowing, or raking finer fuels.
(*Question that relates back to the “crown thinning” discussion: is this the same thing as “crown thinning”.. so is Firewise advice “wrong” to people who don’t think crown thinning is helpful for fuels treatments? Am I missing something here?)
Here’s an example of another paper about mastication in the Southwest. It talks about examples in which mastication without burning was successful in changing fire behavior, but it had to do with making sure the fuels were distributed across the site to avoid soil burning. You certainly get a feel for local differences in reading this paper.
I was hoping that there would be one paper that describes the situations where and why people do or don’t do burning and why, and how it works, but it seems that most of this work is thought and written about by fuels practitioners and at the local level based on their own experiences.
Potential Points of Agreement
1. Prescribed burning is generally best for fuels reduction in terms of fine fuels.
2. Due to long- term fire suppression, there are heavy accumulations of biomass in some areas. In these cases, you may need to do some kind of mechanical treatments in advance of prescribed burning, so you can run fire through and not kill them all.
3. There are situations (here, some mastication, and in wildland-urban interface, others?), in which you can’t do prescribed burning and mechanical treatments alone can be still helpful.
4. (I think the mastication paper is very helpful with this) It is hard to generalize because fuels and fire behavior tend to vary locally. Local fuels specialists may know the most about what works and what doesn’t.
Does everyone agree? Do you want to restate/clarify any of these?
(Note: this is not about the cultural, economic and environmental issues related to prescribed fire- that will follow later as we see where everyone is on the utility of prescribed burning for fuel treatments).