From Greenwire… We’ve hashed this over here before, but here’s another go…. The threat of falling timber to firefighters, and the treat of snags falling across fire lines, is not an ecological issue, but one of physical safety and the ability to hold a fire line. I have seen burning snags fall across lines and put fire in the “green.” I’ll bet the FFs on the Chetco Bar fire, which is burning in portions of the 2002 Biscuit Fire and the 1987 Silver Fire, have lots of snags and downed trees to contend with.
Dead trees are unpredictable in fires, prone to blowing over or falling unexpectedly and taking other trees with them.
To avoid the threat, firefighters often build containment lines farther from the fire, allowing the flames to burn longer.
“When we do that, fires get bigger, and often they burn longer,” said Bill Hahnenberg, a veteran Forest Service incident commander. “So that’s one of the trade-offs fire managers have had to go to.”
Since 1987, falling trees have killed 13 firefighters and injured five, according to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group.
Dead timber has spiked since 2010 due to massive beetle infestations that account for about 20 percent of Western tree deaths. Five years ago, there were 5.8 billion dead trees standing. Crowded forests, drought and warming temperatures have allowed the beetles to proliferate (AP/New York Times, Sept. 7). — NB