Good Fire

Forest Service file photo

Headline:  “Officials showcase site of Bacon Rind Fire 1 year later” (on the Custer Gallatin National Forest in Montana).

Their main message was that, despite the fire’s size, it was ecologically beneficial to the landscape, exposing bare soil and giving way to the forest’s regeneration.

It’s good that they are showcasing this, presumably as a way to sell wildfires as a potential management tool – still, even with climate change and no “mechanical preparation.”  It’s too bad that these kinds of fires don’t get the same kind of media coverage as the “bad fires.”   Someone might start to think that maybe fuels reduction shouldn’t show up as the purpose for every thinning/logging project everywhere.  And that forest plans should provide guidance for where it is or isn’t desirable (such as desired fuel loads).



7 thoughts on “Good Fire”

  1. An additional, specific, role of fire was once in maintaining the openness of up to six seasonal ranges and their migration corridors for bighorn sheep herds. As a result of forest encroachment combined with decimation of bighorn herds resulting in loss of herd memories for their once-used ranges, very many herds now exist primarily at and near the lower tree-lines along Forest boundaries. So much bighorn habitat is on private or BLM land where contact with the diseases of domestic sheep is almost inevitable. We need strategically focused prescribed fire to restore seasonal ranges and migration corridors, attracting bighorns back into the Forest interiors.

  2. We should never reach the point where the Forest Service is touting “Wildfire Acres Burned” as an ‘accomplishment’. Again, letting fires burn, in the peak of fire season, is not a good idea, regardless of the perceived (and dubious) “resource benefits”. Tying up initial attack equipment and personnel, for weeks and weeks, is not a good idea. Sure, address safety issues but, worry about “resource benefits” in October and November.

    • that’s interesting Larry, as I read something somewhere about climate change causing more fires tying up more personnel so there’d be less available for suppression. So there might be a tension there between having firefighters watch WFUs or be available for suppression in more urgent areas, as you said, in certain seasons.

  3. Unfortunately I think the FS already looks as “Wildfire Acres Burned” as an accomplishment.
    After spending last week looking at these “accomplishment” on the Rogue Siskiyou and Umpqua National Forest I was thinking someone could write a book called “The deforestation of our National Forests and Wilderness areas brought about by the Forest Service’s policies on fire.”
    Or something like that.
    I fine it difficult to understand the thinking that it is better spend billions of dollars each year to burn hundreds of thousands of acres, much of it old growth and critical habit, than it is harvest some of this same resource for the benefit of the economic and social health of our nation.
    I had thought the Northwest Forest Plan was about saving the old growth. It is ironic that it turns out it is about spending billions burning it up.
    Please put the fires out when they are small. Save the old growth. Stop the fires.

    • Well, there are multiple issues going on. There is a LOT more emphasis on safety, at the expense of resources, acres and money. However, that is a trade-off we must take. Initial attack and longterm fire strategies aren’t going back to the days of old. There is such a fine line for an engine foreman to judge. I do still think that firefighters want to catch wildfires when they are small.

      Regarding WFU, that decision should be at the Forest Supervisor level, so that the locals know who to blame if the fire blows up. And that would be on top of a summer ban, on a Region-wide basis, ordered by the Regional Forester. We ARE going to need less intense wildfires to burn out unwanted fuels. It’s important that we have as many controls on the practice as possible, along with personal responsibility.


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