April 10, 2020
In the realm of wildfire there are many contentious issues, people do not always agree with the way wildfires are handled, whether that is before they are started, while they are burning, or after they have happened. The three issues I decided to learn more about this week are salvage logging, letting some natural fires burn, and the safety of firefighters.
The Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013 was tragic and took the lives of 19 firefighters. This fire really brought the dangers that these firefighters are putting themselves in to save cities, towns, property and people. The video really detailed the tragic event that happened as these firefighters were trying to save the town of Yarnell. It made people see the dangers that these firefighters are experiencing trying to save these areas within the wildland urban interface, and it made firefighter safety more of a priority.
Video: America Burning: The Yarnell Hill Tragedy and the Nation’s Wildfire Crisis
The video that focused on the 204 Cow Fire really emphasized the success they had letting a lightening fire burn rather than suppressing it. This naturally caused fire was started in mild weather conditions, in a remote area, putting firefighters in there would have been a risk so they decided to let the fire run its course since the burning conditions were mild. The burn was successful, it improved the forest health and reduced the fuels; it burned over large are with a gentle footprint and a good mix of severity. This fire was a good example for many land managers, due to the success they had and the benefits that came from letting it burn. The Yellowstone Fires of 1988 were a very bad example of letting natural fires burn, so the success of this fire was critical to the perception of this method
Video: Cow Fire: Proactive Fire Management in Action
Salvage logging is something that is controversial, but the video I watched really highlighted the benefits that come from it. Many of the benefits mentioned were focused on economics rather than the ecosystem. Salvage logging provides an economic boost to many of the surrounding small towns that rely on this revenue. The revenue provided from salvage logging can also fund future treatments such as road maintenance, brush disposal, and prescribed burning. Reducing hazards is another benefit of salvage logging, particularly around roads and recreation areas. As far as ecological benefits salvage logging can expose the soil from underneath the ash, making these areas more susceptible to natural regeneration.
Video: Pioneer Fire Salvage on the Boise National Forest
4 replies on “Recent Policy Topics and Developments”
I really liked some of your insights into these videos. One video I also focused on was the impacts of the Cow Fire and how it was able to give a better name to the practice of fire management. I think the reasons this was so successful was because of the amount of resources that were available at the time since fire activity in that region was low. This allowed for more time, effort and scrutiny to be given to this specific fire allowing it to be a success. I also found the salvaging efforts to be incredibly interesting as well. I always wondered what happened post fire to trees that could still be used in a commercial way to help with the reforestation efforts for the ecosystem and the view of management techniques from the public.
It seems that we primarily hear of more destructive and dangerous wildfires, and I had not heard of the 204 Cow Fire before and its success, so thanks for sharing! Otherwise I enjoyed your write up. I encourage you to check out Stephen Pyne’s “Flame and Fortune” piece under the Week 2 optional material if you haven’t already (I accidentally wrote a blog post about it thinking it was one of the assigned readings, ha), he shares some interesting thoughts on the philosophy of fire fighting.
And I generally agree about salvage logging, but it of course always “depends” on the scenario for me. I’d say for small scale private timber land owners where it’s their timber is their biggest asset, absolutely go for it. For dry forests on federal USFS land…maybe only at a very small scale in order to really balance interests for public land management.
I appreciate you writing about the 204 Cow Fire. This is something that I have personally never heard of, but like you said is a great example of how fire can be beneficial to an ecosystem. Not only was the risk of harming firefighters taken out of the equation, the overall health of the ecosystem benefited. I think that this is something that more people need to understand. We only see the massive destruction that forest fires can cause. We rarely see the follow up and ecological studies that return to the areas after a few years to learn that the ecosystem has actually benefited. I think that if we increased our understanding of how fire can be beneficial, our management techniques could better improve. Great post!
The Yarnell Fire continues to be a legacy fire of honoring the lives lost in the effort to protect the town. The ever increasing issue today is the increasing in WUI area, and I am sure that it is in land manager’s minds on how these areas will be managed/protected as time progresses. I liked your thoughts on the Cow Fire; it seemed like it was the perfect let burn ignition, and the results offered a chance for the progression of “let burn” fires for management opportunities.