Monthly Archives: August 2018

Forest Service credits forest treatments for containment of Timber Crater 6 fire

A fire burns alongside a road in an area of previously thinned forest.

The Forest Service often talks about using thinning and prescribed fire for “fuels reduction” and forest restoration – but in recent years, wildfires that crossed paths with these treated areas have provided vivid demonstrations of how these treatments not only improve forest health, but also reduce the intensity and challenge of containing later wildfires, improving public safety and firefighters.

In mid-July, a lightning storm passed through southern Oregon, igniting multiple fires in the drought-stressed forest in and around Crater Lake National Park. Firefighters quickly contained most of these fires, but several grew together and became the Timber Crater 6 Fire. It was projected to grow as large as 20,000 acres. But earlier fuels treatment projects conducted in the area allowed firefighters to pursue an aggressive full-suppression strategy, which kept the fire to just 3,100 acres.

 

firefighters working among well-spaced pine trees

Thinning projects improve tree spacing and remove dead trees, while prescribed fire helps reduce ground duff and underbrush that could cause future fires to burn faster and with more intensity. Because ground plants and grasses have evolved with regular wildland fires in this region, native species often rebound quickly following low-intensity burns, while high-intensity fires may kill trees and damage surrounding soil. USDA Forest Service photo.

Over the years, the Fremont-Winema National Forest and Crater Lake National Park have worked collaboratively on a variety of thinning and prescribed burning projects in the Antelope Desert area of the Chemult Ranger District.

The Timber Crater 6 Fire was burning in an area with heavy fuels with few breaks where firefighters could work safely. Fire behavior can be extreme under these conditions. But, the nearby treated areas gave firefighters safe ground to operate and respond under more favorable conditions. The treated areas were critical in keeping the wildfire shorter in duration, less costly, safer for firefighters, less threatening to private property, and with few smoke and economic impacts to local communities.

Often, firefighters need to do significant preparation before starting a burnout operation, including removing trees, chipping, and digging fire lines. The burned area, now cleared of potential fuels, can then serve a “fire break” against a advancing, larger fire.

Two firefighters use a chainsaw to clear brush below a stand of pine trees.

Firefighters prepare an area for burnout operations on Fremont-Winema National Forest as part of efforts to contain the 2018 Timber Crater 6 fire. USDA Forest Service photo.

Because the treated areas required little prep work, crews were able to move in quickly to conduct a burnout operation, and confining the most dangerous part of the fire and removing fuels in its path.

In less than three weeks, the Timber Crater 6 fire was confined to just 3,126 acres and many firefighters were freed up early to move on to other fires.

Old-growth Ponderosa pine trees were protected from high-intensity wildfire, no community evacuations were required, and this fire did not contribute to the longer duration smoke impacts that occurred across the region this season.

The Timber Crater 6 fire demonstrates the value of fuels treatment projects. Many areas across the Pacific Northwest, especially in the wildland urban interface, need thinning and prescribed burning to improve forest health and reduce wildfire risk.

That’s why the Forest Service is working closely with state partners and local communities to increase the number and size of these fuels reduction projects in conjunction with efforts to strengthen fire-adapted community preparedness.


Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region staff

Fire safety for hunting season

A mule deer with large antler rack in a hay field on the Fremont-Winema National Forest in Oregon.

It may feel like fall, but just because temperatures are getting cooler doesn’t mean conditions aren’t still tinder-dry. With hunting season already underway in some places and rapidly approaching for others, USDA Forest Service land managers are asking hunters and other forest visitors remember that fire season is still underway – and that even past fires can present hazards long after their flames have been extinguished.

When hunting on public lands, remember:

  • Just because the weather is cooler doesn’t mean it isn’t dry enough for fires to start, and spread! Know before you go if there fire restrictions in effect.
  • If campfires are allowed, make sure your fire is dead out before leaving. Drown, stir, and drown again – if it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave!
  • Consider campfire alternatives, such as propane stoves.
  • Do not idle, drive or park on dry grass. Vehicle exhaust, or the hot metal on the undercarriage, could ignite the grass or brush beneath.
  • Do not flick cigarettes out vehicle windows. Extinguish smoking materials in an ashtray.
  • Check any chains you may be using on a trailer. Dragging metal on the roadbed can start a shower of sparks into dry vegetation causing a wildfire.
  • Report wildfires by calling 911.
  • Any time you are travelling in the woods, let someone know your planned route, destination and expected return time.

If you’re visiting an area recently burned by wildfire, use caution!

  • People intending to hike into, or near, the fire area should remain alert and aware of their surroundings at all times. Know the forcasted weather before entering the area, assess the weather conditions while in the area, and stay clear of burned trees. Don’t camp or hang out in the wildfire area.
  • Hazard trees or snags tend to pose the most immediate threat.  Dead or dying trees that remain standing after a wildfire are unstable, especially in high winds, and can lose heavy branches or fall at any time.
  • Look up! People are often more aware of obstacles on the ground but don’t often look up and around to assess danger.
  • Ash and fallen needles are slippery and can make for treacherous footing on trails.
  • Burned-out stump holes can make the ground weak and subject to failure. Be aware that ground can be unstable, due to burned-out roots beneath the surface.
  • Loose rocks and logs are unpredictable, and can down slope towards you or out from under you.
  • Burned vegetation can also contribute to landslides, mudslides and erosion when the rain returns. Badly burned ground is less absorbent than healthy forest soil. Flash floods and mud flows may occur.
  • Expect to encounter firefighter traffic, dusty roads, and smoke in some areas. Be aware, and be prepared for possible obstacles or closures related to firefighting activity. Be careful, for your safety and theirs.
Image of a target, icons, and text: Know Before You Go - Hunting and Shooting on Public Lands. Get a map: Know where you can hunt, check for any fire restrictions in effect. Make sure your fire is dead out: Drown stir, and drown again, then check for warmth. If it's too hot to touch, it's too hot to leave. Check the weather: Avoid fires on hot, dry and windy days. Watch for fire danger ratings and ref flag warnings. Place targets away from dry grass, and do not use targets on trees. Consider an indoor range for target practice on hot days. If you see a fire, call 911 to report its location, what is in danger, and stay on the phone until help arrives. Thank you for your help in preventing wildfires!

Know Before You Go – Hunting and Shooting on Public Lands. Get a map: Know where you can hunt, check for any fire restrictions in effect. Make sure your fire is dead out: Drown stir, and drown again, then check for warmth. If it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave. Check the weather: Avoid fires on hot, dry and windy days. Watch for fire danger ratings and ref flag warnings. Place targets away from dry grass, and do not use targets on trees. Consider an indoor range for target practice on hot days. If you see a fire, call 911 to report its location, what is in danger, and stay on the phone until help arrives. Thank you for your help in preventing wildfires!

In the News: Abnormally dry to drought conditions continue across Pacific Northwest

Creek at Forest Road 2204, Olympic National Forest May 31, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo by Douglas Parrish.

Capitol Press reports that moisture across Washington and Oregon ranges from extremely dry to drought conditions, with little relief expected in the next three months.

According to the article, the region’s most extreme drought conditions are centered on southwest Oregon, with drought conditions extending across Oregon and western Washington, and extremely dry conditions continuing through central and eastern Oregon.

Stream flows in Oregon are running an average of 50% below normal this summer, ranging from 30 percent in the John Day basin to as much as 80 percent in the South Coast region.

Full story: http://www.capitalpress.com/Idaho/20180829/drought-lingers-across-northwest

QUIZ: What Pacific NW National Forest should you visit next?

Choose your next adventure!

Are you a hiker or a biker? A “bird nerd” or a history buff? Do you prefer to wade at ocean beaches, or in lakes?

Take our quiz and we’ll suggest what Pacific Northwest National Forest you should visit next based on your responses, and provide links to learn more about recreation opportunities on that forest, passes and permits, and all the other info you’ll need to plan your trip!

Link:
https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/outreach-education/what-tree-are-you-quiz.shtml

Images of a forested ridge along the ocean, a wildflower in a meadow, and a waterfall, with text: Choose your next adventure! Discover what National Forest you should visit next in the Pacific NW with the USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Research Station's online quiz, at https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/outreach-education/visit-pnw-national-forest-quiz.shtml.

Choose your next adventure! Discover what National Forest you should visit next in the Pacific NW with the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station’s online quiz, at https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/outreach-education/visit-pnw-national-forest-quiz.shtml.



Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region & Pacific Northwest Research Station staff