Fuels management can be a big help in dealing with wildfires

Dr. Daniel M. Leavell has extensive experience in regard to wildfires that, I imagine, few with a doctorate could claim. His qualifications to speak on this subject are summarized in this quote from his 2017 CV: “I have been involved with fire behavior and disturbance ecology since March of 1973. My experience with wildland firefighting from 1978 to 2012 included being qualified and having had experience as firefighter, squadboss, crewboss, helitac support crewmember, division group supervisor, safety officer, situation unit leader, infrared interpreter, field observer, Incident Commander Type 3, and Operations Section Chief for Type 1 and 2 incident management teams. I have been a member of several Type 1 and Type 2 incident management teams (including wildland fire use teams) for the Northern Rockies. I was responsible for all operations, tactics (short – and long – term), and personnel on fire incidents. I directly supervised all ground and air personnel, information (including advanced fire behavior predictions), and resources. I ordered and directed these resources to meet objectives in a safe and cost effective manner. I have had 30+ years of firefighting experience in complex and diverse fuel types and terrain throughout the Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Southeast, and Alaska and have been cited for excellent leadership and the ability to strategize and direct all resources for immediate, efficient, and effective attainment of objectives. I have served on fires ranging in size from 5 to over 100,000 acres, and have managed and been directly responsible for thousands of human and mechanical resources. And after serving on over 300 fires (including several hurricane relief efforts), only two people I have been responsible for have had minor reported injuries and no fatalities. I am very glad and proud of that and have worked hard to achieve that claim.” (Italics added)

Here are some of the points he makes in regard to the value of forest management in dealing with wildfires:

1) “Dead forest vegetation has been accumulating, drying and remaining cured longer”
2) “The size of forest fuels also greatly influences fire behavior. A quarter-inch diameter twig dries sooner, ignites faster and burns quicker than a 30-inch diameter log because small-diameter wood has more surface area than larger material.”
–> Clarification: “small-diameter wood has more surface area than larger material.” should read: ‘small-diameter wood has more surface area per unit of volume than larger material.’. All else being equal, the higher the surface area per unit of volume the greater the chance of an explosive ignition from a spark (i.e. needles versus logs, shavings vs. lumber and flour vs. seed). In addition, such down wind high surface area per unit of volume materials will dry out more quickly from the heat produced by advancing flames especially if the fuel is above the ground rather than resting on or in the ground.
3) “The drier the wood with more oxygen applied (wind), the hotter it will burn”
4) “Hazards have dramatically increased and exposed our firefighters to more risks. Firefighter safety is always the primary objective and no fire is worth risking a life. For that reason, there is less direct attack on fires than before.”
5) “It has always been easier and safer to suppress fires in responsibly managed forests, where ecosystem health, fuels reduction, wildlife habitat and overall diversity are the primary objectives. This is true today.”
6) “Firefighters use the term red flag conditions to describe when lower humidity, and higher temperatures and winds reduce fuel moisture content. Anything organic can then burn hot if an ignition source starts a fire. Will removing the biomass of live and dead woody fuel affect fire intensity and severity? Of course, it can. The less fuel to burn, the lower fire intensity”
7) “Fuels management is one of the few things we can do along with suppressing fires. We are good at both. Terrain is normally out of our control, as is weather. But, we can manage forest fuels.”
8) “Managing fuels through responsible forest management reduces wildland fire risks, hazards, intensity and severity. It also improves overall forest health and wildlife habitat.”
9) “We have opportunities and choices to make. We can manage our forests responsibly by easing fire back into fire-adapted ecosystems through careful harvests, controlled burns, and various tools in our management toolboxes. Fire and resource management agencies across the West are examining various suppression strategies as an over-abundance of forest vegetation, climate change and more homes (which are fuels, too) in fire-prone areas make massive fires increasingly common and dangerous to residents and firefighters”
10) “We can use science to manage fires to increase firefighter and public safety, foster forest health, promote fire resiliency and nurture wildlife habitat — while improving economic opportunities that will bring jobs. Or, we can let it burn hot and let it go up in smoke”
11) “We can never stop all wildland fires through responsible forest management or otherwise.”
12) “responsible forest management reduces wildland fire risks and hazards. It also reduces fire intensity and severity when they burn in fire-adapted, fire-prone environments.”
–> Clarification: reduced fire intensity and severity make a fire easier/quicker/less costly to extinguish.

Can we all agree that this expert is correct in stating that these are facts (well established fire/forest science) as supported by many other posts and comments on this blog site and elsewhere which have been drawn from scientific journals of old to modern day on-line publications/reports?
If so, can we move on to a discussion of how this should drive our forest policy?

Note: The two –> clarifications are mine.

35 Comments

  1. Folks may want to look into a recent fire (summer 2017) in the Clackamas River RD in Mt. Hood NF. I hear it burned only in a recently thinned unit and then laid down when it hit the adjacent, unthinned plantations that are in the 40 – 60 age class.
    Fed foresters need to get serious about, and be given the political latitude, using prescribed fires and natural ignitions as tools. A toolkit limited primarily to logging isn’t sufficient.
    My first season in fire was also in 1973.

  2. The serial litigators are unwilling to allow the Forest Service to use its own discretion to manage forests. Yes, I do think that the USFS should be at least given a chance to earn trust with American citizens, with full transparency. Any hint of corruption should be investigated and aggressively prosecuted. I would also like to see the USFS better defend itself in the public eye.

  3. Good post of ground proven facts. That being said I doubt there will be agreement. I have seen many editorials, opinions, on the fires currently burning in California and rhetoric seems to void facts with the majority. Unfortunately, I’ll be spending the next few days looking at the facts.

  4. Parsing nuances of “fire behavior” without addressing causation is akin to parsing how scarlet fever kills the patient instead of how and why the scarlet fever epidemic started in the first place.

    There’s a curious disconnect within these ‘expert’ testimonies (predictably in defense of ‘fuels management’ and ‘treatment.’) Such testimony predictably avoids addressing actual causation of our annually “unprecedented” wildfire events.

    Anthropogenic Climate Disruption, handily abetted by agency mismanagement, has wrought this era of perpetual ‘unprecedented” firestorms to the American West. Until the ‘experts’ testimony shifts their focus to addressing actual causation, they have no credibility.

    We should all be focused on prevention and worsening of climatic Armageddon, rather than how to ‘adapt’ to the event.

    • David

      It seems to me that you missed the point – I don’t think that there is much disagreement on this site as to the major factors in wildfire causation. The problem is what should be done about the known causation’s if anything. In addition, the author addressed those items also in the body of his article as Matthew notes below. So in an attempt at brevity, I chose not to rehash causation.

      The points were:
      A) Can we agree that “Forest Management Can Be A Big Help In Dealing With Wildfires”?
      B) If so, “can we move on to a discussion of how this should drive our forest policy?”

      • Hi Gil,
        Your two choices solve nothing without addressing causation.
        A) Apparently not.
        B) Apparently not.

        None of the above for obvious reasons.

        They Fail to Directly Address Causation
        This has been how and what I think, and a majority of American owners of NFS and others think should drive NFS policy….
        ( but my phrasing is apparently unacceptable to you), so here’s Michael Garrity’s phrasing from a piece titled,

        “Sen. Risch’s wildfire solution is to burn more taxpayer money”

        “Before throwing more billions of taxpayer dollars into a separate firefighting fund, Risch and Congress need to seriously acknowledge and address climate change because, without that, more forests will burn every year no matter how much money they throw at the Forest Service. Finally, sticking to the Republican homily of “personal responsibility,” Risch and his colleagues can help private rural homeowners and businesses by offering assistance in implementing proven methods to help make structures less susceptible to wildfires. Otherwise, Risch’s plan simply burns hard-earned taxpayer dollars on Western wildfires.”

        Mike Garrity is the Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies.

        http://idahostatejournal.com/opinion/columns/sen-risch-s-wildfire-solution-is-to-burn-more-taxpayer/article_69cf1cc6-17b2-59f5-9ebb-ca4d68fc34fd.html

        • David

          My two choices were not meant to solve anything. The post is intended to find out what facts we can agree on and from there get into more specifics as to how causation impacts the selection of solution choices in order to assemble a tool box of appropriate choices for the various potential scenarios.

          Of the 12 facts the author stated, which do you agree with and why do you disagree with the others?

  5. I thought Dr. Leavell made some good personal, anecdotal evidence right up front in his guest column, which unfortunately didn’t make it in the snips above.

    “Overall, I have observed temperatures getting hotter earlier in the year, rising higher during the summer and remaining hotter later in the year. Humidity (air moisture content) has followed the same pattern: lower earlier in the year, staying low throughout the summer and later in the year. Nightly humidity recovery also does not seem to occur as it once did.”

    Under these conditions, moisture in live and dead forest vegetation (which is fuel) dries sooner and remains dry longer. Drought is becoming more common and frequent. This stresses trees, particularly in fire-prone areas like southerly slopes where sunlight shines earlier and longer. Insects and disease then take a fatal toll on stressed, overpopulated stands of trees.”

    Forest fuels have simultaneously been increasing in biomass as we became adept over the past century at extinguishing fires. This is true in all forested stands to one degree or other, but especially true when lightning- and human-caused fires historically burned every five to ten years in our local fire-adapted, fire-prone ponderosa pine stands.”

    Personally, I see this a lot situation a lot when we talk about wildfires, ‘fuel’ and fire frequency and intensity. Seems like everyone wants to talk about stands of ponderosa pine trees. Well, here in Montana and the northern Idaho, we do have the “dry montane forest type” of mainly ponderosa pines with some scattered Douglas fir, but guess what? That forest type accounts for a mere 4% of the forested landscape in all of Montana and North Idaho. It’s also worth pointing out that, for the most part, the ‘dry montane forests’ of Montana and N. Idaho have been heavily logged since white settlement and many towns, roads and other man-made infrastructure was literally planted in its place.

    We all know that lower subalpine and upper subalpine forest types burn much, much different than ‘dry montane forest types. This year in Montana we saw quite a bit of lower and upper subalpine forest types burn, while there was very little “dry montane forests” which burned in 2017. Do lower and upper subalpine forest types in Montana and N. Idaho currently have an “over-abundance of forest vegetation” as Dr. Leavell described? I personally don’t think so, and I know more than a forest PhD scientists and researchers from the University of Montana’s excellent College of Forestry and Conservation have also made the same observation.

    • Matthew, your wrote that “Forest fuels have simultaneously been increasing in biomass as we became adept over the past century at extinguishing fires.”

      Agreed. What do you and others in the environmental community say we, collectively, ought to do about the increase in biomass?

      • I didn’t write that Steve. That was quoted directly from Dr. Leavell.

        I responded to that already in my first comment. In case you didn’t see my response, here it is:

        Personally, I see this a lot situation a lot when we talk about wildfires, ‘fuel’ and fire frequency and intensity. Seems like everyone wants to talk about stands of ponderosa pine trees. Well, here in Montana and the northern Idaho, we do have the “dry montane forest type” of mainly ponderosa pines with some scattered Douglas fir, but guess what? That forest type accounts for a mere 4% of the forested landscape in all of Montana and North Idaho. It’s also worth pointing out that, for the most part, the ‘dry montane forests’ of Montana and N. Idaho have been heavily logged since white settlement and many towns, roads and other man-made infrastructure was literally planted in its place.

        We all know that lower subalpine and upper subalpine forest types burn much, much different than ‘dry montane forest types. This year in Montana we saw quite a bit of lower and upper subalpine forest types burn, while there was very little “dry montane forests” which burned in 2017. Do lower and upper subalpine forest types in Montana and N. Idaho currently have an “over-abundance of forest vegetation” as Dr. Leavell described? I personally don’t think so, and I know more than a forest PhD scientists and researchers from the University of Montana’s excellent College of Forestry and

        • OK, Matthew, I apologize for attributing Dr. Leavell’s statement to you. But you didn’t answer my question. Hypothetically, in a stand with high levels of biomass that could fuel an intense wildfire, what management actions, if any, ought to be considered?

          • Sorry to butt in Steve, but I confront that in my posts. How many times must it be repeated? The answer is, it depends. Front country, high WUI development, established roads? Mechanically treat and see if we can take a profit off the land. The further you go from these types of conditions (and many others too numerous to mention in the time I have) the more it makes sense to let the fire regime re-establish itself naturally. Duh 🙄

            • Eric, Let me rephrase my question to Matthew, a question I’ve asked before of others: Are there any circumstances where fuels reduction is acceptable? And are there any circumstances where fuels reduction that involves commercial timber sales is acceptable?

              I’m simply trying to see if we have any common ground of fuels treatments.

              • Fuel reduction in the structure ignition zone (SIZ) makes sense. Beyond that it’s wishful thinking. Efforts outside the SIZ should focus instead on ecological restoration (which may produce some fuel reduction co-benefits).

                • 2ndLaw, Fuel reduction in the structure ignition zone (SIZ) makes sense — I agree (up to 200 feet from the home). But would wager that the residents of Sisters, Oregon, were very happy that the Deschutes National Forest conducted a thinning and prescribed fire project last spring, in an area that happened to be directly between the city and several small communities and the 24,000 acres Milli Fire that started in August and burned to within a mile of several neighborhoods and three miles of the city itself. Here’s a photo of the still-smoldering treatment area that I took in May:

                  http://wp.me/a3AxwY-5E9

                  Notice the numerous small stumps. If this hadn’t been thinned and Rx burned, it likely would have burned during the Milli fire and been a very intense, fast-moving fire.

                  • Meanwhile, just a tiny bit north, here’s some photos from a wildfire that burned in a unit of the Jazz timber timber, which was a 2,000 acre westside “restoration thinning” project on the Mt. Hood National Forest.

                    The fire absolutely scorched the thinned forest, and laid right down when it came to the unlogged area.

                    I’m told that at a recent meeting of the Clackamas Stewardship Partners, the USFS district ranger acknowledged this burn pattern and said the Forest Service is thinking a lot about what it means to put all the most flammable parts of the tree on the ground where they can dry out.

                    • Matthew, this was a thinning of a planted stand, not a fuels treatment like the one I mentioned near Sisters. Judging by the photos of the Jazz burn, lots of trees survived the fire. Patches of dead trees will develop into excellent habitat for elk and deer, species for which such habitat is in very short supply in that part of the Mt. Hood NF.

                    • Matthew

                      Apparently the photos that you linked to are atypical because, from the photos, it looks like it was a pretty good burn of mostly ground fuels. It looks pretty much like I would expect after a thinning followed by a controlled burn. Yes, there are a few patches that were not thinned as heavily as the rest of the tract that appear to have burned uphill where it killed most of the trees but that is good for diversity and keeps the black-backed woodpecker happy without having to destroy the preponderance of the acreage.

                • We’ve been working at that, in the Sierra Nevada, for the last 24 years but, not enough thinning is being done. Again, three important points on ‘restoration’ is to match tree densities to the current annual precipitation levels, adjust species compositions to make forests more resilient, and to restore all-aged conditions to monoculture stands, where appropriate.

                  Of course, preservationists don’t want humans to accomplish these tasks.

          • Anecdotally, my little N. Idaho town has a Facebook “rant and rave” page. A poster the other day was ranting about logging trucks “Jake Braking” coming down the hill into town. A local logger replied “that’s the sound of money.”

            And so it goes. I’ve heard neoliberalism defined as the use of economic measures to define political decisions. It just kills certain segments of our society to hear the “sound of money” going up in flames. Those same individuals, as capitalism has proven again and again, can not stoop low enough in their specious arguments in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

    • From my experience in Montana and Idaho, I generally agree. Southerly-facing slopes that aren’t too steep can be thinned, for fire safety, and other benefits. West and east-facing slopes are more of a mix of conifers, with several of them being quite flammable. Thinning COULD have some benefits but, fire safety is much lower on the list. The remaining stand will always have those flammable species. The north-facing slopes are different forests, altogether, heavy to spruce and other shade tolerant flammable conifers. Couple these facts with the terrain difficulties and you’ll see a bigger picture.

      Management is difficult, and very site-specific. Debate about these forests is good.

    • Matthew

      Agreed. In an attempt at brevity, For good or bad, I chose to address all of those points in Item #1. There was no attempt to hide anything from my snips. The inclusion of the link to the reference makes that clear. In addition, as I mentioned to David above, I didn’t stress causation because I don’t believe “that there is much disagreement on this site as to the major factors in wildfire causation.”

      The points and major disagreements are about items “A” and “B”. I am hoping that this author can help us find some more points of agreement:
      A) Can we agree that “Forest Management Can Be A Big Help In Dealing With Wildfires”?
      B) If so, “can we move on to a discussion of how this should drive our forest policy?”

  6. Hi Gil,
    An important post, I feel. But here, IMHO is where so many get lost in the weeds:
    10) “We can use science to manage fires to increase firefighter and public safety, foster forest health, promote fire resiliency and nurture wildlife habitat — while improving economic opportunities that will bring jobs. Or, we can let it burn hot and let it go up in smoke”
    —-> Black and white thinking. The first sentence is true. The second is an all or nothing rhetorical statement designed for emotional impact. Not helpful.
    11) “We can never stop all wildland fires through responsible forest management or otherwise.”
    —-> Right. Now, where and how does this statement pencil out economically. That is the main question we repeatedly confront … and fail miserably.
    12) “responsible forest management reduces wildland fire risks and hazards. It also reduces fire intensity and severity when they burn in fire-adapted, fire-prone environments.”
    —-> This is a value judgment. Given my two aforementioned critiques … what is “responsible”?

    • Eric

      #10 – 2nd sentence – No problem – The audience for the article was different from this blog site.
      Black and White thinking is essential when there is a possible need to take action to deal with a problem. Even deciding not to take action requires B&W thinking.

      #11 – We fail miserably because the interactions between the components that make up the total system can not be comprehended by the human mind. What are the economic impacts of downwind health deterioration? What is the value of a life? Throw in the impact on species loss, infrastructure, clean air and etc. and etc. ad nausem. ??? So the decision becomes a trade off that begins with subjective opinions and moves to a B&W decision based on imperfect knowledge as you say in your first sentence response to #12.

      #12 – Responsible is the opposite of saying that you want to protect something and then not doing anything to protect it.

  7. The facts he states are not very controversial.
    The conclusions are controversial because of the facts he leaves out, those being:
    1) Fuel treatments are highly unlikely to interact with wildfire during the brief period before fuel regrow;
    2) Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity (MTBS) data show that wildfires are generally NOT burning uncharacteristically. There is still a nice mix of mostly low- and moderate severity fire, with a bit of high severity;
    3) When fuel treatments do encounter fire, they have a modest effect on fire behavior (e.g., treatments only change the size and intensity of the fire by a small degree) and sometimes fuel treatments make fire effects worse instead of better (e.g., treated stands stimulate the growth of understory that burns more severely and kills more overstory trees compared untreated stands);
    4) Most wildfires fires are controlled more by weather than by fuel;
    5) Most of the areas that might arguably NEED fuel reduction will not support a commercial timber sale, and there is a lack of institutional commitment to invest in fuel reduction efforts other than commercial logging. This causes the agencies to set priorities based on economic viability rather than fire hazard effectiveness – a recipe for failure of the core purpose of fuel reduction efforts;
    6) Fire is doing more of the ecological work, and the agencies should recognize this and shift focus from logging and fire suppression (during the worst weather), to instead reintroduce natural processes such as prescribed fire during more favorable weather conditions.

    • “1) Fuel treatments are highly unlikely to interact with wildfire during the brief period before fuel regrow;”

      Not true, here in California, especially with so many human-caused wildfires

      “2) Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity (MTBS) data show that wildfires are generally NOT burning uncharacteristically. There is still a nice mix of mostly low- and moderate severity fire, with a bit of high severity;”

      Again, not here in California

      “3) When fuel treatments do encounter fire, they have a modest effect on fire behavior (e.g., treatments only change the size and intensity of the fire by a small degree) and sometimes fuel treatments make fire effects worse instead of better (e.g., treated stands stimulate the growth of understory that burns more severely and kills more overstory trees compared untreated stands);”

      Keeping fire out of the crowns is essential, here in California. The presence of widespread bearclover ensures that fires will cover an impressive amount of acres. If it stays on the ground, fires’ effects are minimal.

      “4) Most wildfires fires are controlled more by weather than by fuel;”

      In the Sierra Nevada, vast areas cannot have prescribed burns without first having a thinning project. Less fuel equals less intensity and impacts, regardless of weather.

      “5) Most of the areas that might arguably NEED fuel reduction will not support a commercial timber sale, and there is a lack of institutional commitment to invest in fuel reduction efforts other than commercial logging. This causes the agencies to set priorities based on economic viability rather than fire hazard effectiveness – a recipe for failure of the core purpose of fuel reduction efforts;”

      I partly agree but, many places will bundle non-commercial tasks within a fuels project. Mastication and even slash removal (physically removing logging slash) are sometimes included in projects.

      “6) Fire is doing more of the ecological work, and the agencies should recognize this and shift focus from logging and fire suppression (during the worst weather), to instead reintroduce natural processes such as prescribed fire during more favorable weather conditions.”

      In many places, it just isn’t safe to let a fire burn, or even to light a prescribed burn. That fact isn’t going to change. Hoping for well-behaved and ‘beneficial’ fires isn’t a rational idea, in these times.

    • 2ndLaw

      #1 – So 15 to 20 years is a brief period and would have no impact on wildfire reduction. So we should let it burn and ignore the endangered and other species killed; ignore the downwind impact on human lives for 1 to 3,000 miles; ignore infrastructure damage to reservoirs, communication, transportation, structures and homes; etc. etc. ad nauseum. So why do you get all upset about a well planned and executed thinning or small clearcut which does a whole lot less damage.

      #2 – So we should let it burn and ignore the endangered and other species killed; ignore the downwind impact on human lives for 1 to 3,000 miles; ignore infrastructure damage to reservoirs, communication, transportation, structures and homes; etc. etc. ad nauseum. So why do you get all upset about a well planned and executed thinning or small clearcut which does a whole lot less damage.

      #3 –
      A) “When fuel treatments do encounter fire, they have a modest effect on fire behavior”
      –> FALSE when done properly (i.e. followed by a controlled burn and repeated control burns at appropriate intervals for the species and conditions [including fuel height to the base of the crown])
      B) “sometimes fuel treatments make fire effects worse instead of better (e.g., treated stands stimulate the growth of understory that burns more severely and kills more overstory trees compared untreated stands);”
      –> That is why fuel treatments should be prioritized so that the treatment is focused on overly dense, easily accessed or high traffic areas with the highest probability of encountering a human ignition source. The purpose being that on those sites that do bounce back with understory/midstory that provides a ladder to the crowns, you have to burn on regular intervals appropriate to the species and conditions. Your hopeless resignation to ‘sometimes things go bad so we shouldn’t do anything’ is exactly why things get testy on this site. There is a middle ground that would get the most bang for the buck in terms of protecting our national forests while leaving the rest to nature.

      #4 – “Most wildfires fires are controlled more by weather than by fuel”
      –> Try sustaining a fire when it runs out of fuel. Try burning a lake without pouring diesel or some other fuel on it.
      –> Not necessarily true at the ignition site at the beginning of the fire. The objective of fuel treatments is to allow the fire in low to moderate initial wind conditions to be stopped at a low cost before it creates its own weather and turns into a runaway inferno.

      #5 – This is a totally defeatist attitude. Can’t never could. Prove your point that “Most of the areas that might arguably NEED fuel reduction will not support a commercial timber sale”.
      –> Often there are options to offset some of the costs when traditional commercial markets are limited.
      –> So shouldn’t we prioritize based on those areas where commercial opportunities coincide with the other prioritizing factors as I mentioned in #3.
      –> Where would we be if Jonas Salk had said it’s too complicated and too much work to figure it out or bother to try.

      #6 – Doesn’t it strike you as odd that you have defined “prescribed fire” as a “natural processes”?

      As I usually do, I come away from your comments above very confused. You want to protect any part of a forest that might have the remotest chance of being of benefit to some endangered species but you don’t want to protect it from fire, insects and disease in overly dense stands exacerbated by drought. Seems like enviros have done a complete 180 and think that the rest of us can’t see that you talk out of both sides of your mouth in complete contradiction to what you used to say.

  8. Thank you, Gil for addressing my opinion piece. It was a challenge to write within the limits of 900 words or less to fit the requirements of the news service. Reading the comments posted here is interesting – and in no way do I want to engage in an electronic argument/pissing match. My intent in writing the piece was just what Gil was getting at – an attempt to bring us together in hopes to agree on the basic science and get past the piddling detail-bashing. My career in fire/forestry started in 1973 at the Riverside Fire Lab as a grunt technician. That entire project was funded based on the calamities of the So. Calif. fires that were at that time the biggest fire season in memory. Research, in hopes to garner answers – to feed management decisions went into high gear. Much of the management practices we have now result from those studies. History has now repeated itself. The tragic fires in Calif. happening as we discuss is the result of something we need to address – not the endless arguments of what someone says or writes. We have an opportunity to come together and start getting answers to give management the best possible basis from which to start modifying current practices. Management will happen one way or another – best to be based on sound science than knee-jerk reaction. Something else I’d like to bounce off now that I’m writing this: in viewing the drone videos of the calamitous fires in the subdivisions – seems like the fire behavior in the subdivisions is following the pattern of a running crown fire in a forest environment. We have been saying for years that homes/structures are fuel and will burn as such when scattered throughout forest or range. But this is something different. We need answers. This could have big ramifications on planning and management of subdivisions in a fire-prone environment…. Anyway – I wish you all the best and grateful for the experience and expertise in our field. When we come together there is not much we can’t resolve. Thank you.

    • Daniel

      Thanks for your ‘above the fray’ feedback and mellow tone.

      After this post grinds to a halt, I’ll try to pull together a synthesis of the points of commonality that I see in the comments. From there a followup post would be in order as to how we can expand on the commonalities to a prioritized toolbox of acceptable actions for various situational scenarios. When and if that happens. I and many others here would greatly appreciate your ‘above the fray’ feedback at that time also.

      I am encouraged as I see more commonality here than I’ve ever seen before. That commonality seems to center around the word “prioritization”

  9. I think most resistance to fuel treatments is related to wildlife habitat. I don’t think most biologists would agree that reducing fuels improves wildlife habitat as a blanket statement (5, 8, 10). For mechanical treatments, for most species, in most places, such statements are probably wrong.

    For me this issue has become much simpler. Reducing fuel does affect fire, other things being equal and if done properly. Protecting values from fire is more effective (and therefore cost-effective) the closer you are to what you want to protect. The farther you get from what you want to protect, the less you should be willing to risk adverse effects from treatment in order to get uncertain results.

    The main point of disagreement seems to be the “where” more than than the “how.” Why can’t we just agree that it is best to start near the most important areas (that we define through planning), which are most at-risk (defined by science)? And only worry about the more controversial projects if we have money left over (not likely)? (But maybe I’m just repeating what 2nd and Eric said.)

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