It’s the 50th anniversary of the “Summer of Love” and my project for this summer is to try to understand the differences between people who say “fuel treatments don’t work and people shouldn’t do them” and those who say “fuel treatments can work and people should do them”. What’s really behind that? On what observations do people base their claims?
We can’t expect journalists to do this (the whole thing is too complex). The scientific world doesn’t provide fora to jointly examine claims and counterclaims within a discipline, let alone across disciplines. I guess that leaves it up to us. We have the opportunity to lay out different claims and jointly examine them, and learn jointly what the different values, assumptions, and observations lie behind these points of view. We can even tell our own stories of fuel treatments we have seen that worked or did not, and we can hear from people with direct experience in suppression as well as people who publish scientific papers. We can ask questions and get answers from each other.
Who knows? We could create one small space, where for one small topic, people could model civil disagreement, and gain a respite fromthis two pronged approach from Canada to defining fuel treatment effectiveness, but my search was fairly superficial and maybe others can help. Here are the two prongs:
1. Did the fire behavior change as a result of the treatment? Yes or no.
2. Did the treatment contribute to the control of the wildfire? Yes or no.
I found this in a discussion linked to this Canadian research group, that has a variety of interesting ongoing projects. Here’s a link to an “effectiveness of fuel treatments” write-up in Sasketchewan with interesting photos. Here’s some summary findings:
• Fuel treatment increased visibility into the stand.
• Fuel treatment increased firefighter safety in terms of movement and visibility.
• Under the fire weather conditions the extreme fire behaviour took place, fire crews were able to control and suppress a spot fire that would have likely increased in size and intensity and spread into other values.
• Items located around homes can act as a receptive fuel for embers to fall into. Keeping these areas clean is a homeowner’s responsibility and can contribute to protection of one’s town.
2. Wadin Bay
• An active fire front moved into the community.
• The fire moved into the fuel treatments.
• People were able to safely suppress the fire within the treatment area.
• A permanent home and two seasonal cabins plus other values were lost, and there was potential for further losses.
The Wadin Bay area had very thick stands at pre-treatment, which would have made travel within the stand difficult and dangerous given the observed fire behaviour in untreated portions of the hamlet. The combination of increased visibility and decreased fire intensity enabled firefighters to bring the fire under control and ultimately save several structures from burning
And here’s a photo.