Fire Experts Surprised by Intense Fires in Beetle Killed Stands

The Saddle Complex fire burned so intensely that it created its own weather, which further fueled the fire. PHOTO COURTESY MAGGIE MILLIGAN.

Check out the Bob Berwyn’s interview with Matt Jolly from the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory and the video clip here.
From the Summit County Citizen’s Voice

4 thoughts on “Fire Experts Surprised by Intense Fires in Beetle Killed Stands”

  1. This seems anecdotal, the least reliable form of evidence.

    NASA and others have looked at the issue across large scales of space and time and found little correlation between beetles and fire, because weather variables seem to have such an overwhelming influence.

  2. The important correlations are between beetles, lodgepole, wildfires, and dead trees — especially for those among us that are worried about carbon sequestration.

    No matter what NASA says, it is a well known fact that dead, pitchy trees burn hotter and faster than green trees. A video is a document, not an anecdote.

  3. Tree- if the question is “how do forests of dead trees burn in a specific area and how can we safely fight fire in those conditions” it seems to me that direct observation is the best evidence. It is empirical; science bases its legitimacy on its empiricism.

    I have argued in the past that looking across the past may not be helpful evidence as climate change and human management have changed conditions. As in if climate change is unprecedented, how can the past predict the future?

    Using larger spatial scales doesn’t make something more true, it tends to make things less true for a specific area through averaging. If we want to know about the economy of Paonia, Colorado, should we examine statistics for the county or the average of the US?

    If I remember my history of science class correctly, the tendency to think that generalized theoretical models (physical sciences) are more “sciency” than direct observations (naturalists, farmers, etc.) traces back to the class system in Britain. You don’t see many overt signs of that much anymore, but if you look at the members of the President’s Council of Science Advisors, I don’t see any wildlife or fish bios, or agricultural scientists..

    To be fair to the Obama administration , Rosina Bierbaum and Barbara Schaal (evolutionary biologists) probably wouldn’t have made it in previous administrations, so perhaps next time..

  4. I talked with a person who was on the Salt Fire and was aware of the local conditions. Apparently the fire was in beetle infested lodgepole pine that had grown up through a dead lodgepole stand that had fallen down. It had so much dead downfall that it was difficult to walk through. Wood doesn’t rot very fast at the higher elevations and can last decades. His opinion was that it needed to burn as it was smaller diameter with no value on low productivity sites. If it had been a drought year he felt the fire could have easily been a 100,000 acre monster. As it was it would not burn in the lower elevation Douglas fir stands down off the ridge tops.


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