Wildfires Burning in Heavily Clearcut, Logged and Roaded Parts of the Oregon Cascades

This post isn’t meant to serve as a be-all and end-all piece about all wildfires in general. Rather, it’s more specifically about the current Oregon wildfires burning in clearcut, heavily logged, and roaded areas of the Oregon Cascades. While these images and videos certainly don’t tell the entire story, they do tell part of the story—and a very important part of the story, I’d argue. I plan on adding to this post as time permits, so please keep that in mind.

As many of us know, different ecosystems burn differently. High severity fires are natural, normal and expected in some ecosystems, not so much in others. It’s important to remember that many of the largest and most destructive wildfires in recent years—in terms of human lives and structures lost—were not even “forest” fires at all, but rather more urban fires that raced through neighborhoods and communities surrounded by dry grass, brush, shrubs, and chaparral. Many of these fires also had little to do with federal public lands. However, all of these deadly fires have been pushed by heavy winds during a period of prolonged drought and record high temperatures.

The horrific Almeda fire, which started on September 8 during very high winds and blasted through Talent and Phoenix, Oregon, burning down 2,357 residential structures, had zero to do with forests and public lands, for example. Here’s what a Talent, Oregon evacuee, and scientist, Dr. Dominick DellaSala, wrote in the aftermath of that tragic wildfire.

The wildfires highlighted below all burned primarily within “stand-replacing fire regimes,” which means they are forests that typically—and naturally—experience infrequent, but severe fires. When fires in “stand-replacing fire regimes” take off and expand exponentially, they are always weather-driven—fierce winds, high temperatures and very low humidity. Let’s take a look at some of the landscapes that have burned in the Oregon Cascades since Labor Day weekend.

The image above is of the 170,000 acre Holiday Farm Fire, which started on the evening of September 7 during raging winds. I got the image from Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics & Ecology. The current fire perimeter is in red and as you can clearly see the fire has burned through an extremely heavily clearcut and logged part of the Oregon Cascades.

While the cause of this wildfire is currently under investigation, the Oregonian reported on September 17 that “residents told the Oregonian/OregonLive that the blaze was preceded by a power outage, a loud explosion and a shower of blue sparks from an electric line near milepost 47 on Oregon 126 – the exact location where state officials have pinpointed the start of the fire.”

According to Oregon Wild “A whopping 76% of the Holiday Farm Fire area was previously logged” (See: shades of red on the map below).

Speaking of the southwest part of the Holiday Farm Fire. Kevin Matthews flew over what is now the south edge of this fire on July 24, six weeks before the wildfire. Matthews is a former Lane County Commissioner candidate. Below is his video.


Moving further south, above is an image of the Archie Creek Fire burning northeast of Roseburg.

Above is an image of the Beachie Creek Fire directly north of Mill City. Fire officials confirmed that at least 13 of the fires that fed this blaze during the high wind event on Monday were caused directly by downed power lines. These fires spread very quickly fanned by what is essentially the Oregon Cascade’s equivalent of the So Cal’s Santa Ana winds or the Bay area’s Diablo winds, all of which have caused considerable damage and huge wildfire runs.

Directly above is the same general image of the Beachie Creek Fire area north of Mill City, but without the wildfire overlay so you can more clearly see how heavily logged and roaded this area is. The rest of the country may not realize it, but the Santiam River watershed and the McKenzie River watershed where the Holiday Farm Fire ripped through, as some of the most heavily logged landscapes in Oregon, which is one of the most heavily logged states in the country.

UPDATE 10/1/2020: A class action lawsuit filed against Pacific Power alleges the utility’s failure to shut down its power lines amid a historically dangerous storm caused wildfires that devastated the Santiam Canyon on Labor Day evening.

“Despite being warned of extremely critical fire conditions, Defendants left their powerlines energized,” the lawsuit says. “Defendants’ energized powerlines ignited massive, deadly and destructive fires that raced down the canyons, igniting and destroying homes, businesses and schools. These fires burned over hundreds of thousands of acres, destroyed thousands of structures, killed people and upended countless lives.” Read the full story here.

All of the wildfires highlighted above, including the Riverside Fire, burned within “stand-replacing fire regimes” within the west (i.e. “wet”) side of the Cascades. These are NOT “open, parklike stands of ponderosa pine” that may have historically burned more frequently and generally at low to moderate severity (and even at high severity when conditions were right (like maybe during a megadrought, record high temps and heavy winds…sound familiar?).

What does current science say about the forests within these “stand-replacing fire regimes” and potential “management options?” Here’s a 2018 “Innovative Viewpoint” by some of the top minds in the country on this topic:

The nature of the beast: examining climate adaptation options in forests with stand‐replacing fire regimes.

ABSTRACT: Building resilience to natural disturbances is a key to managing forests for adaptation to climate change. To date, most climate adaptation guidance has focused on recommendations for frequent‐fire forests, leaving few published guidelines for forests that naturally experience infrequent, stand‐replacing wildfires. Because most such forests are inherently resilient to stand‐replacing disturbances, and burn severity mosaics are largely indifferent to manipulations of stand structure (i.e., weather‐driven, rather than fuel‐driven fire regimes), we posit that pre‐fire climate adaptation options are generally fewer in these regimes relative to others. Outside of areas of high human value, stand‐scale fuel treatments commonly emphasized for other forest types would undermine many of the functions, ecosystem services, and other values for which these forests are known. For stand‐replacing disturbance regimes, we propose that (1) managed wildfire use (e.g., allowing natural fires to burn under moderate conditions) can be a useful strategy as in other forest types, but likely confers fewer benefits to long‐term forest resilience and climate adaptation, while carrying greater socio‐ecological risks; (2) reasoned fire exclusion (i.e., the suppression component of a managed wildfire program) can be an appropriate strategy to maintain certain ecosystem conditions and services in the face of change, being more ecologically justifiable in long‐interval fire regimes and producing fewer of the negative consequences than in frequent‐fire regimes; (3) low‐risk pre‐disturbance adaptation options are few, but the most promising approaches emphasize fundamental conservation biology principles to create a safe operating space for the system to respond to change (e.g., maintaining heterogeneity across scales and minimizing stressors); and (4) post‐disturbance conditions are the primary opportunity to implement adaptation strategies (such as protecting live tree legacies and testing new regeneration methods), providing crucial learning opportunities. This approach will provide greater context and understanding of these systems for ecologists and resource managers, stimulate future development of adaptation strategies, and illustrate why public expectations for climate adaptation in these forests will differ from those for frequent‐fire forests.

For those who aren’t familiar, “forests with stand‐replacing fire regimes” include many forests in the West Cascades region of Oregon and Washington, much of the Coast Range of Oregon and Washington, much of forested landscape within the Northern and Central Rockies, as well as the Southern Sierras, especially forests found at upper elevations in these regions.

Next, let’s move way out of the forests and into the Home Ignition Zone (HIZ). According to the National Fire Protection Association, “The concept of the Home Ignition Zone was developed by USDA Forest Service fire scientist Dr. Jack Cohen in the late 1990s, following some breakthrough experimental research into how homes ignite due to the effects of radiant heat.” The HIZ is divided into three zones. 1) Immediate zone: The home and the area 0-5’ from the furthest attached exterior point of the home; defined as a non-combustible area; 2) Intermediate zone: 5-30’ from the furthest exterior point of the home; and 3) Extended zone: 30-100 feet, out to 200 feet.

For over two decades, the forest protection community and forest activists have been imploring people to follow Dr. Jack Cohen’s research and heed his advice on how to protect homes and communities from wildfires. I’ve spoken with Dr. Cohen numerous times about his research, as he was based here in Missoula. We’ve invited him to speak at numerous public presentations and panels. I’ve worked with him and recorded his power-point presentation for community access TV channels and we’ve mailed about 100 of his of videos to libraries across the American West for free check-out. In 2003, I produced a newspaper primer featuring Dr. Cohen’s research and recommendations and paid to have them inserted in over 500,000 papers in rural communities across the West. Countless other forest protection groups and activists also educated the public about effective Home Ignition Zone defense measures over the past 20 years. 

Meanwhile, for over two decades, pro-timber industry politicians have largely exclusively called for more public lands logging with less environmental oversight, less scientific analysis, fewer protections for wildfire, and no real focus on immediately around homes. Coincidently, most all of these same pro-timber industry politicians are also pro-oil and gas and pro-coal politicians. I can think of few examples of these pro-timber industry politicians, or timber mill owners and logging industry lobbyist for that matter, sharing the research of recommendations of Dr. Jack Cohen with members of the public.

However, I can think of lots of examples of these same pro-timber industry politicians blaming wildfires this year—and in every recent year I can remember since the mid-1990s—on “environmental terrorist groups,” “environmental radicals,” “fringe groups,” and “environmental extremists.”

Of course, this is not to say that there are not some good people in the “timber industry” that get it. One such person is my friend Mark Vander Meer of Bad Goat Forest Products in Missoula, someone I literally can’t say enough good things about. Not only is Mark a logger, but he’s a certified soils scientists who also runs a successful watershed consulting business. We’ve partnered with Mark and his team a number of times over the years to do bona-fide forest restoration and watershed work. For a couple of years, I raised funds to hire Mark’s crew and we all teamed up with the West End Volunteer Fire Department to create defensible space on private land around the DeBorgia, MT community through education, action, and fellowship. We followed Dr. Cohen’s Home Ignition Zone principles and focused our work around the homes of folks who were elderly or couldn’t do, or pay for, the work themselves. Here are some scenes from that work in 2006 and again in 2007.  Mark is the guy in the photos who might be able to moonlight as Santa Claus at your local department store this winter.

Make sure to also read this excellent, thoughtful, and science-based perspective on the Oregon wildfires from Ben Deumling of Zena Forest Products. Thanks so much for Susan Jane Brown for sharing this piece in the comments section here. It really deserves more attention, so please check it out and share it with people you know. Here’s some of what Ben had to say:

“The question I hear over and over is did bad forest management cause the Labor Day fires? In a word: no. The data shows that a combination of strong east winds and extremely low humidity are what caused these fires. Plain and simple. 30-40 mph winds from the east blew for over 24 hours, bringing record low humidity in the single digits to the region….Short of scraping the land bare, there is no type of forest management that could have stopped these fires. Having a discussion about the type of forest management that we as Oregonians want on both our public and private forestlands is important. Good forest management can indeed help to slow less severe fires and reduce the loss from a fire when it does burn. But those conversations are moot in this particular context.”

Again, the information presented here certainly doesn’t tell the entire story, but it does tell a part of the story. Just a reminder that I will be adding to this post as time permits.

BLOGGERS BONUS: Below is a pre-fire image of the landscape where part of the 280,000 acre North Complex Fire in California has burned this year. Yes, I know this isn’t in the Oregon Cascades. By acres, it’s the 6th largest fire in state history. Maybe Trump is right and America does have a “forest management problem.” [Note: These are clearcuts…miles and miles and miles of clearcuts]


52 thoughts on “Wildfires Burning in Heavily Clearcut, Logged and Roaded Parts of the Oregon Cascades”

  1. Right on Matthew. Just be cause an area is in Forest Management (logging) doesn’t mean fires will not burn through them. Whether roadless or clearcut, it seems as these types of east wind fires will burn through anything and do it quickly.

  2. Matt which other researchers pass your personal litmus test of not being in the pocket of the timber industry? How about: Allen, Arno, Agee, Ager, Biswell, Fule, Franklin, Finney, Keeley, Scott, Spies, Stephens, Van Wagtendonk?

    • Thanks for your comment. Interesting that this is what you got out of the post.

      I’d just like to point out that Franklin was part of the stand‐replacing fire regimes study I posted. Also, like I said I will be adding to this post…been busy. If you’d like to add your own insights, go for it. Cheers.

  3. And your point is? Are you blaming the timber industry for these fires?
    The loggers, mill workers, timberland owners who live in western Oregon and who’s lives are directly affected by these fires, would do anything they could to make our forests and communities more resilient to fire. It is their industry, homes and loved ones that are also threatened by these fires.
    The timber industry is not the enemy. That lack of ability of people to compromise and understand different viewpoints is the enemy. The timber industry working together with the environmental community and other interested parties willing to compromise could help maintain a forest, and communities within the forests, that are more resilient, productive and green.
    These fires burned through all types of forests. These fires burned eastward from our national forests. I can only imagine the amount of the remaining old growth forests that have been decimated by these fires.

    • Thanks for your comment Bob.

      Just a correction, these fires burned westward, not eastward, as you wrote. They were pushed by very heavy winds from the East, the Cascade’s version of the Santa Ana winds and Diablo winds, as I wrote.

      However, I agree that these fires burned through all types of forests because of the combination of heavy winds, record heat and record drought. That’s one point I, and others, are trying to make. Former U.S. Forest Service Deputy Chief Jim Furnish basically made the same statement on this blog last week.

      When you said: “That lack of ability of people to compromise and understand different viewpoints is the enemy.”

      Do you think your statement applies to the timber industry? Or some loggers? Or right-wing politicians? Or the many Trump supporters on the internet blaming these wildfires on anti-fascists? Or do you believe your statement only applies to forest protection groups who have actually been advocating for science-based restoration and effective Home Ignition Zone (HIZ) work for over two decades now?

      If we could turn back the clock to the year 2000 and have spent the past two decades with a laser-like focus on the Home Ignition Zone (as numerous forest protection groups advocated) would it have save some homes and lives in these current Oregon Cascade wildfires? Could 20 years of focused HIZ work and funding have made a difference in the Almeda fire, which had zero to do with forests and public lands, but burned down 2,357 residential structures in a matter of hours? Would twenty years of HIZ work have made a difference in the Camp Fire, which killed 84 people (and which PG&E plead guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter for their role in causing the fire) and destroyed 19,000 structures? I think it’s clear the answer to these questions is yes, it clearly would’ve made some type of difference.

      When you talk about working together and claim that forest protection groups don’t want to work together, why do you ignore the fact that for two decades now we’ve been imploring people to work together and focus time, money and resources on the Home Ignition Zone? Personally, I’m sick of it and I’ve had it with the timber industry, pro-logging politicians and their supporter’s unwillingness and inability to compromise and focus on areas of agreement.

    • “The question I hear over and over is did bad forest management cause the Labor Day fires?
      In a word: no.” That is also the answer to the question of did LACK of management cause the fires.

      “The Forest Service and BLM which owns all of the land surrounding the town of Detroit had done a very good job of clearing a fire break around the city. We felt comfortable with what they had done. This fire was just so big, the fire break wasn’t going to stop it. I don’t know what else could have been done to keep that fire out of our community.” Do you suppose this is an example of “defensible space” not working, or an example of a “fire break” (farther from homes) not working, where there should have been more focus on defensible space instead?

  4. Thank you bringing attention to these matters. To all those who advocate for more logging to “control” fires, let this overwhelming evidence please sink into your rhetoric. Logging or “Forest management” did not stop or control or mitigate these fires. To the contrary, the available evidence suggests the opposite effect from plantation forestry. As has been previously published and any wildland firefighter already knows, these conifer plantations are incendiary firebombs just waiting for the spark and the winds to torch them off.

    The grossly negligent actions of a few electrical utility managers, by leaving the remote power lines energized in a NWS predicted historic wind event, with red flag warnings everywhere, will be judged harshly.

    The actions of a few big greedy corporations that own most of the forests in these deadly fire areas, with their incendiary conifer plantations, should also be judged harshly and only time will tell.

    One thing is certain, logging and forest management by the big greedy corporations has not reduced high severity fire behavior, it has instead brought it closer to communities putting people lives at risk.

    • Spotted.. I know you’re talking about Oregon, but the story in other areas about plantations may be different.
      “To the contrary, the available evidence suggests the opposite effect from plantation forestry. As has been previously published and any wildland firefighter already knows, these conifer plantations are incendiary firebombs just waiting for the spark and the winds to torch them off”

      Of course I guess it depends on your definition of “plantation forestry”. Plantations are just plantations. As Larry is saying, planting just means planting. If you mean herbicides or thinning or whatever, they can all have different effects in different areas with different site prep, different precipitation and so on.

      We had this discussion a while back (2010) – I called it “impacts of fire disturbance on anthropogenically induced vegetation mosaics” but I could also call it anthropogenically induced structural diversity.


      • Yes I’m talking about Oregon, Northern California & Sierra Nevada, and Washington State.

        See Zald and Dunn 2018 and many more. Also, like I said, just ask a wildland firefighter to defend one of these incendiary plantations and they will laugh in your face.

        Wow, you industry people have no shame, you’ll make any excuse and just ignore the facts every time. I guess the money is good though, huh?

        • Well, there is also the fact that in Sierra Nevada National Forests, clearcuts have been voluntarily banned since 1993. Same for old growth harvesting. Sure, go ahead and fight against private industry clearcuts but, the USFS is thinning flammable trees in the Sierra Nevada. I’m not an ‘industry person’, either.

        • Spotted Owl,
          I hope you’re not talking about my being an industry person. Not only have they never offered me a job, I can’t even remember the last time a person from the timber industry offered me a beer. You can check the details of my history at the contributors’ tab above or I can send you a detailed CV if you’re curious.

          As to Washington state,
          the same David L. Peterson that Matthew said was “by some of the top minds in the country on this topic” also wrote this paper.

          “Previous studies have debated the flammability of young regenerating stands, especially those in a matrix of mature forest, and no consensus has emerged as to whether young stands are inherently prone to high severity wildfire. This topic has recently been addressed using spatial imagery, and weak inferences were
          made given the scale mismatch between the coarse resolution of spatial imagery and the fine resolution of mechanisms driving fire severity. We collected empirical stand and fire-severity data from 44 regenerating stands that are interspersed in mature, mid-elevation forests in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest (OWNF) on the eastside of the Cascade Range in Washington, USA. These stands are mixed-species plantations that were established to promote regeneration of seral to late-seral tree species (Douglas-fir, subalpine fir, Engelmann spruce, western larch) in small patches within a larger lodgepole pine forest. In 2006, the 70,925 ha Tripod Fire burned through all the plantations and the surrounding lodgepole pine matrix. To understand what drives fire effects in plantations, especially those that exist in spatially heterogeneous forests, we compared fire severity in plantations with and without fuels-reducing site preparation (i.e., fuel treatments), using three metrics to quantify severity: mortality (%), exposed mineral soil (%), and char height (m). We built generalized linear models for each severity metric and tested for a difference in all severity metrics between treated and untreated units using Permutational Multivariate Analysis of Variance. Units without fuel treatments have more severe fire effects: mortality is 77% in untreated units and 37% in treated units (p = 0.0005). Other variables contribute to differences in fire severity, including species composition, canopy closure, and canopy base height. Canopy base height and canopy closure both exhibit a reverse relationship with mortality from what was expected: the higher the canopy closure and the lower the canopy base height, the lower the mortality.
          In other words, stands that have trees closer together with crowns near the ground are more likely to have lower mortality. Overall, the results suggest that young stands in some dry mixed conifer forests can be resilient to wildfire if surface fuel loading is low upon stand establishment.”

        • From what I understand there are plenty of firefighters working hard to do just that. (Hoping these rains help too.) These fires are very tragic for everyone.
          I guess you are fortunate not to need money, huh?

  5. Matthew, not to be pedantic about pedants, but the paper the Seattle folks wrote was not a “study” per se but an op-ed with citations (a perspective). So they have ideas about strategies and are very knowledgeable. I am a huge fan of Jerry Franklin.

    But so were the people who wrote the Cohesive Strategy (and much more familiar with fire suppression and much more diverse geographically). So we can’t just accept some (great) folks from Seattle’s word for it.

    “(2) reasoned fire exclusion (i.e., the suppression component of a managed wildfire program) can be an appropriate strategy to maintain certain ecosystem conditions and services in the face of change.” Good to know.

    • Hi Sharon: You’re being pedantic…But I’m used to it.

      But you’re also right, so I changed the word “study” and inserted “Innovative Viewpoint.” Thanks for the edit.

  6. FWIW, the incident management team on the 248,000-acre Creek Fire on the Sierra National Forest in California noted that, “The fuels in the area consist of large expanses of beetle kill timber, 80-90 percent of the stand. The fuel loading in the timber is estimated at 2,000 tons an acre. The brush in the area is at critical levels, 60 percent in the ceanothus and manzanita. Thousand hour fuels are at 6 percent moisture level.”

    • FWIW: What did your timber industry friends do to the Sierra National Forest in the California during the 1940s to 1980s, Steve?

      Also, Steve, do you or the Society of American (de)Foresters have anything official to say about all the images I’ve posted above?

      • Matthew, I have friends in the timber industry and, believe it or not, in the environmentalism industry. By far the greatest impact on the Sierra NF in the last few decades has been the death of nearly all ponderosa pines across the forest, as well as significant mortality in other species. Climate change, drought, and insects decimated trees in untouched stands, in harvested areas planted over that last 50 years, in regeneration in areas burned by fire, and in and around homes and communities. This was not caused by timber harvesting.

        • I’m glad you have friends from different walks of life, Steve. Pretty sure must human-beings do too. But do you or the Society of American Foresters have anything official to say about all the images I’ve posted in the original blog post? I know your views here are personal, as I suppose are mine, but you also are the editor of the monthly newspaper of the Society of American Foresters. So please, do tell us how great all these clearcuts and logged-over, (and pesticide- and -herbicide-sprayed, in some cases) lands really are. Thanks.

          • Do you have any real data to back up your claims of increased fire severity? Speed? Intensity?
            Do you have dNBR, RdNBR, CBI, soil burn, RAVG data? Have you looked to see if model-scenario the results of Zald and Dunn hold water in this real world scenario? Any of these scientific products, besides Google Earth and a fire perimeter?
            Have you ever thought that even if you have valid points, you don’t come off very well, at all, and that the rest of the west for whom forest management and policy is a blip on the radar and newscreen relative to the very real impacts of wildfires, will simply write you off as quickly as industry?

            Perhaps that is why nothing ever changes.

            • Dear Of The Woods: You know as well as I do that the information/data/scientific products you are asking about are not yet available for a wildfire that started by a downed power line just 12 day ago. When the specific data becomes available let’s share it and discuss it on this blog, as we’ve done post-fire in year’s past.

              Also, you should know that last night around 9:25 pm I approved your comment. I noticed that you had posted the same comment 3 times, starting around 8:15 pm. Each time you posted the same comment, you got more upset and seemed to suggest that someone was preventing your comment(s) from being approved. That’s entirely not true. Please keep in mind that this blog is run entirely by a few volunteers and sometimes, like during a Friday night after a long week, it may take a few hours for one of us moderators to approve comments. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

              • Howdy MATTHEW,

                So you admit that to making bold scientific claims without any evidence, is not ok? Or that yes, we should wait for concrete, real data? I think the latter. For, you and your compatriots’ claims are no different than the dreaded claims made by industry, currently.

                Baseless, emotional, pseudo-science driven, and unhelpful.

                Non-profit tiny orgs producing “science” that align with their extremely vocal public statements go nowhere as far as policy is concerned. They are written off. When things come out such as graduate student intimidation, swiping ‘public’ data, and misinterpreting of incomplete data, it harms the entire environmental cause.


                The science that matters and that is truly considered most often is that done by the US Forest Service the USGS, and federally funded research under University/College studies (*gasp*). Of course, it is absolutely *not* ok to ever bring up that “other” scientists are funded by donations that are driven by appeal to emotions to the public, creating what could be seen as a system where one would need to always have issue with any management of public lands that is not 100% hands off.
                The attacks on scientists who seem to have *any* idea that is not “let it burn” from the enviro side are exhausting and BS. The idea that Cohen and others have “Been screaming about this for 30 years” when it comes to structure loss indicates that, as Einstein said, “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results s insanity”. Figure out a new way to present the data. Might I suggest less condescendingly?

                Look to what the courts have decided over and over in California, Oregon, Washington. Rim Fire, King Fire, Biscuit Fire. Yes, the Mendocino lost in court over their management approach. Probably rightfully so. Although, perhaps leniency for trying to manage for past mistakes 50 years ago is ok. I don’t know how you argue that in court.

                Showing a fire perimeter and some Google Imagery is on par with industry science (parts of which can be good), non profit science (parts of which can be good), and people’s claims that enviro-advocacy groups are just in it for profit and not having to pay taxes and having a job paid for by tax free donations (most of which is false, a minority of which is true).

                So why not stop wild claims without any science (which each side wants to claim ownership of), and wait for real data to come out. If you are right, it is even more powerful. If you are wrong, even in some places, you know that industry and the politicians will latch on to those facts 100%…which really does not help, because capitalism and markets dictate that people want wood products for cheap.

                We are all about to see a massive salvage operation in Oregon. If it is so bad for the woods, then why does the demand for 2×4’s stay so high? And what is the alternative? 2×4’s from Georgia and Florida? Ever seen how logging happens there? 2×4’s made of non-wood products, the source of which is absolutely not renewable in a human lifetime?

                For someone representing a side that always speaks to “the science”, how about you drop the emotional appeal and what for the site specific science?

                Lastly, I saw multiple comments be approved after I sent mine in the first time. I appreciate volunteers on this site. And not everyone exists on a M-F work week. However, I have also seen accusations that comments from what could be seen as the “enviro” side were not being approved.
                I’ve also seen where you attack anyone who questions in any way the holy grail of enviro advocates. It is a bad look when any criticism gets labeled as being “industry hacks” or worse.


                Perhaps you should learn a lesson from industry. Image is everything, and they are doing a better job to the public eye than any one on the advocacy side, recent past, present, and likely future. It isn’t fun to acknowledge, but it is true. In case you have not noticed, but they more or less are winning, especially in Oregon.
                Quite frankly, I do not like the timber industry. But I dislike bad science and bad claims even more, especially when they get in the way of progress. From anyone.

                Check your emotions at the door. Else as I said, nothing ever changes.

                • “Lastly, I saw multiple comments be approved after I sent mine in the first time. I appreciate volunteers on this site. And not everyone exists on a M-F work week. However, I have also seen accusations that comments from what could be seen as the “enviro” side were not being approved.”

                  That’s entirely not true. To prove it, pasted below is screenshot of all the comments that came into the site on Friday night. One from Larry at 7:33pm, one from me at 7:34 pm and one from you that you posted at 8:11pm, and which I already told you I approved at around 9:25pm on Friday when I checked the blog before I went to bed. The next comment on the blog wasn’t submitted until 8:40 am on Saturday.

                  Also, you are confused and misinformed when you state “However, I have also seen accusations that comments from what could be seen as the “enviro” side were not being approved.” Again, that’s entirely not true and actually not at all what people were talking about, or having problems with. See for yourself in the comment section here, the problem was actually that some people couldn’t see other people’s comments that were already posted, so it made it difficult to have a discussion or debate. This happened to a number of people and not just “enviros.” We tried to trouble-shoot it and we think it has something to do with the web browser people are using.

                  • When other moderators, like myself, make a comment, it is automatically approved. I always check for new comments before I post my own. Sometimes, as I compose and post, another comment comes in and I don’t see it. To the outside world, it might appear that my comment was approved and another was not.

                    • Larry, Thanks for sharing this information about what you see and experience as a moderator of this blog. Your description matches up with my experience as a moderator as well. In the past 10 years, us volunteer moderators have approved 31,901 total comments…and counting. While all of us who are moderators certainly don’t agree on everything, we’ve done a very good job over the past 10 years keeping the comments moving along, in my opinion.

  7. The following information was posted yesterday on a social media site of Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics & Ecology, which is based in Eugene, Oregon near the Holiday Farm Fire:

    “While we are all focused on helping our friends and communities who lost their homes, we are also trying to make sense of these fires.

    The Holiday Farm fire burned through the communities of Blue River, Vida, and down the McKenzie River drainage. Driven by east winds, and fueled by young plantations, the fire spread extremely rapidly. We hope this map contributes to greater understanding of these fires.”

    • It wasn’t just fueled by young plantations. Yes young plantations burn but so does old growth. I have seen where fire has skipped right over plantations. I have seen where it hasn’t. Typically fires are suppressed more often and sooner on private lands than in our national forests.
      I am wondering what people think about introducing more fire on the landscape. I feel we are stuck with this myth that we can burn our way out of our fire hazard. All I usually see from wildfires are decimated forest landscapes that are prone to reburns that result in there being no forest at all. I have also observed that were the fire did just burn the underbrush that in a few years the brush is back as well if not more than before.
      I am a believer that rather than letting fire “clean” our forests we would be wiser to harvest and use theses sources of renewable carbon.
      In my honest opinion we do need more logging on our public lands. Maybe we could then let our privates timberlands mature for awhile.

      • Bob – I doubt the private landowners would let their forests grow longer. They want to get the $ out of them or meet other goals for their shareholders and owners.
        Nice idea but very unlikely to happen. And due to the land ownership pattern the private lands are probably NOT going to offer the same wildlife or fish habitat value that large, contiguous areas of federal land do.

        • The way the private timberlands have been changing ownership as of late you are probably right. The “groups” that have invested in timberlands do indeed have to answer to their investors.
          I still think we need more logging on our national forests. Most timber sales can make a profit for the seller, the FS, and for the buyer. They can also reduce fuel loads and promote old growth habitat. Not to mention their benefits to our economic and social health.
          Remember logging on our national forests was reduced drastically starting in the early 90’s.

  8. According to Oregon Wild “A whopping 76% of the Holiday Farm Fire area was previously logged” (See: shades of red on the map below).

  9. Matthew, looking at Google Maps, I’m not sure that the “logged federal lands” is accurate. I think there may be more logged areas than shown. But most of non-federal western Oregon has been logged, and much of federal, so I guess if you’re going to have a fire in trees, chances are it will have been previously logged. Not sure what the point is?

    • Thanks for sharing Tom Spies’ oped, Steve. I agree it’s a very good piece. I believe that much of what I’ve somewhat haphazardly laid out this blog post, especially related to fires on the west-side of the Cascades, matches up almost identically to the points that Spies makes. Furthermore, many of us in the forest protection community have been making most all of the same exact points as Spies for over 25 plus years. Many in the timber industry and many politicians? Well, not so much.

      • Spies’ essay is excellent, but I don’t necessarily agree with him on all points.

        “…plantations become very susceptible to fire as they fill in.” Yes, and as Larry (I think) pointed out, the same goes for natural plantations, sometimes more so: natural regeneration after fires or other disturbance can be more dense and thus has more fuel and thus higher severity fire.

        “Fuel reduction is not warranted in old-growth forests whose large trees and shaded microclimates make them resistant to fire.”

        I agree in principle, but there are no “natural” old-growth stands left — none that haven’t been impacted by the unnatural lack of fire and other human impacts. As we’ve discussed in the past, if we want old stands to look like the old stands of the past, then we’ll need to manage them to compensate for human-caused impacts. In some cases, that means cutting large trees — true fir, for example, that now competes with old-growth ponderosa pine. I’ve seen stands where relatively young but large true firs are outcompeting old-growth, and the old-growth is in decline or dying. These stands are headed toward pure true-fir stands.

        • Steve,

          It’s quite clear that this sentence from Tom Spies is in a paragraph talking specifically about “westside” (ie wetside) old-growth forests of the Cascades.

          “Fuel reduction is not warranted in old-growth forests whose large trees and shaded microclimates make them resistant to fire.”

          Earlier in the oped, Spies says: “Historically, forests in the Coast Range and western Cascades burned infrequently, every 100-500 or more years.”

          I agree, and we point this out all the time. Fact is, many forests in the Coast Range and western Cascades have not seen an “unnatural lack of fire.”

          I don’t quite get why you are talking about dry site Ponderosa pine forests when Spies oped isn’t really about that at all. But, for the record, many of us don’t agree that cutting down 100 to 300 year old true fir on the dry side of the Cascades is a good idea either. However, I get why the timber industry and their supporters want to cut down these big, old trees.

          • You’re right, Matthew, Spies wrote about westside forests and my example was for eastside forests. My bad. However, the same principle applies to westside old-growth forests: without fire, fuels build up.

            Spies: “We can also understand the risks of living in westside forested areas and reduce the threat of fire by rebuilding our homes with fire-resistant building materials and clearing vegetation in the yards around them. ”

            My wife and I have cleared fuels from around our home, and we encourage our neighbors to do the same. One of our neighbors is the US Forest Service. Downslope from my house, between here and the Sandy River, a lot of fuels of all sizes, dead and down, have built up. These stands were established naturally after a large, intense fire in ~1903 that killed very large old-growth. The 110+ year old mixed conifer stands, similar to what cover the vast majority of this westside area, are self-thinning as the larger trees shade out the weaker ones. This leaves lots of standing dead and down fuels, and not much veg in the understory. It would be quite reasonable to do thinning here — all at once rather than according to Nature’s schedule — and to leave less fuel behind. I’d feel safer if they removed some of that fuel. And if commercial thinning produced some revenue to pay for this work, so much the better.

  10. Wow. Quite the post and comments, almost all of which I agree with. Question: Who among you has seen Mowery, Read, Johnston, and Wafaie, 2019, Planning the Wildland-Urban Interface, Planning Advisory Service Report 594, 144 pp (!)


    I think it comes closer than anything else I’ve read to being a balanced treatment of opportunities for and obstacles to management of our forests, WUI, and even urban centers for wildfire effects mitigation. Especially noteworthy IMO is equal emphasis on both carrots and sticks for implementing strengthened building, fire, WUI and zoning codes. In contrast, NFPA Firewise seems to still reject sticks (e.g., fines) as not useful. I also like that they support a re-evaluation of the interface-intermix distinction. Not discussed enough (IMO) are the role of insurance industry and regulators, realtors (especially WUI disclosure laws), and construction industry in implementing and enforcing stricter codes . Not mentioned at all, that I noticed, is that most of the timber companies around here seem to have realized that an increasing number of wildfires start on residential property so it’s in their interest to support stricter codes.

    I’d like to hear from this group what you think of the report and which groups in the WUI mgmt community are likely to have or have not read this. I want to circulate it more widely but not just spam everyone. Thanks!

      • Oops. No, I don’t but sign in just requires free registration as a member, guaranteed no e-mail. Or if you or I can somehow post the file on your site, just me know. I can post it on an OSU server. Or maybe I can figure out how to post it on drop-box or as a last resort, Google Drive. Or maybe you have some other suggestion.

  11. Excerpt from a Greenwire article today, “Few resources, old-growth forest allowed for fire’s growth.”

    By the time staffing was ramped up, flames had found their way deep into inaccessible forest. Embers floated across mountain ridges, igniting towering trees and creating an expanding wall of fire.

    “A lot of that old growth hadn’t seen fire in 40 or 50 years. The fire had a lot of places to go,” Mitchell said. The blaze had more than doubled in size over the past week to 170 square miles.


    • For a blog post about Oregon Cascades fires and forests, it’s worth noting that the EENews article to which Steve links is a southern California (Angeles National Forest — east of Los Angeles) fire. Mostly chaparral. Some small (by Oregon standards) pine trees. Doesn’t seem remotely relevant to the discussion above.

      • Good point Andy. It’s interesting what people call “old growth” and how different that can be..
        When people were working on HFRA there were many contested definitions, even in the same location. There probably still are.

        • The Angeles National Forest says: “Elevations range from 1,200 to 10,064 feet. Much of the Forest is covered with dense chaparral which changes to pine and fir-covered slopes as you reach the majestic peaks of the higher elevations.”

          Wikipedia (citing a PSW Research Station paper):

          “Tree species for which the forest is important include bigcone Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga macrocarpa), Coulter pine (Pinus coulteri), and California walnut (Juglans californica). The National Forest also contains some 29,000 acres (12,000 ha) of old growth, with: Jeffrey pine (Pinus jeffreyi) forests and mixed conifer forests (Coast Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii), ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), and white fir (Abies concolor)), and lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) the most abundant types.[7]”

          Here’s a Google Maps look at the fire area, which stretches ~25 miles from just outside the metro area north across the mountains to the desert valley near Pearblossom.


  12. See also:

    Fanning the Flames:
    Holiday Farm Fire debunks the forest management narrative
    By Henry Houston, Eugene Weekly
    September 24, 2020


    Opening snip:

    On a media tour of Weyerhaeuser timberland 10 days after the start of the Holiday Farm Fire, a press information officer leading the trip says if you want to see what the Moon looks like, peer over at the side of the hill.

    The hillside was filled with burnt tree stumps, scorched earth and smoldering spots — with a sea of smoke blanketing the sky.

    The private timber plantation was just one of many to burn throughout Oregon during the historic wildfires that raged after the Sept. 7 windstorm. Although the wildfires in Oregon have sparked a call from the right for forest management, others say that a pro-timber narrative is the reason for some of the fires’ ferocity — because the Holiday Farm Fire burned mostly across private timber forests.

    “It’s the legacy of forest mismanagement that is fueling the wildfires, along with climate change, which is the ultimate driver,” says Tim Ingalsbee, executive director of Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics and Ecology (FUSEE).

  13. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before….How many tens of thousands of homes and businesses have burned to the ground in just the past 20 years because of the failure and/or negligence of power companies?

    Class action lawsuit filed against Pacific Power for wildfires that devastated Santiam Canyon:

    A class action lawsuit filed against Pacific Power alleges the utility’s failure to shut down its power lines amid a historically dangerous storm caused wildfires that devastated the Santiam Canyon on Labor Day evening.

    Jeanyne James and Robin Colbert, who owned a home and property burned by the fires in Lyons, filed the lawsuit individually and on behalf of a class of similarly situated people in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

    “Despite being warned of extremely critical fire conditions, Defendants left their powerlines energized,” the lawsuit says. “Defendants’ energized powerlines ignited massive, deadly and destructive fires that raced down the canyons, igniting and destroying homes, businesses and schools. These fires burned over hundreds of thousands of acres, destroyed thousands of structures, killed people and upended countless lives.”


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