Last year, we had 300,000 acres on fire on and near the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. We welcomed 15,000 firefighters from all over the country, and actually from New Zealand and Australia as well, to come here, to help keep you safe. I spent over 200 million dollars last year, making sure that we got these fires out. In the past 2 years on the Rogue River -Siskiyou National Forest, 500,000 acres have burned.
So, what’s changed? Has it always been this way?
Merv George, forest supervisor for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, joined Chris Chambers, city forestland manager, author of the Ashland Community Wildfire Protection Plan, Jackson County Integrated Fire Plan, and creator of Ashland, Ore’s FireWise Communities and Fire Adapted Communities programs, to present a 20-minute talk at TEDxAshland in May. A video of their presentation was posted to YouTube last month.
The city and federal officials teamed up to explain why wildland fires have become landscape-scale challenge in many U.S> communities, and how the City of Ashland and the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest are answering that challenge by collaborating with each other and their entire community on creative solutions that have been demonstrated to reduce risk and save homes (and possibly lives), right in their own backyard.
You can view the complete presentation on YouTube, or watch it below.
Apparently, not everyone is celebrating Smokey Bear’s 75th birthday this month by taking his “only you can prevent wildfires” message to heart:
More than 100 abandoned (or incompletely extinguished) campfires have been discovered by Mt. Hood National Forest visitors and staff in just the past six weeks.
Recreation was heavily impacted on Mt. Hood National Forest following the Eagle Creek fire in the nearby Columbia River Gorge National Scenic area, which makes it a little bit surprising more campers haven’t taken campfire safety procedures to heart.
The good news is, other campers have been quick to help by reporting the unattended campfires they’ve discovered, and consistently cool evening temperatures and periodic rain has helped keep sparks from spreading the fires to nearby vegetation.
To enjoy your campfire safely: Check for local fire restrictions on the forest you are visiting. If fires are allowed, make sure the weather is calm – do not light a fire during windy conditions, which can carry sparks far from your campsite. Use the provided fire rings, or dig a fire pit surrounded by at least 10 feet of bare ground, and surround the pit with rocks. Keep a shovel and bucket filled with water nearby, and stack extra wood upwind and away from the fire.
To safely extinguish a campfire: Pour water on the fire, stir it into the coals and embers with a shovel, and continue adding water and stirring until all coals are thoroughly soaked and cold to the touch. (Make sure there are no warm embers still trapped beneath the top layers; such fires can smolder for hours or even days before reigniting when the materials around them dry out).
The Granite Gulch fire, a lightning-caused fire currently burning on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in eastern Oregon, offers an excellent example of a naturally-caused fire being managed for ecological benefits.
Located deep within the Eagle Cap Wilderness, the fire is currently small and located many miles from the working forest or developed communities.
In the East Oregonian article, Nathan Goodrich, a fire management officer for the forest, explains that managing fire means monitoring the fire and the surrounding conditions closely.
The fire’s effects could help fend off encroachment from sub-albine firs and improve conditions for species like Clark’s nutcracker as well as the whitebark pines that they help propagate, Goodrich said.
If conditions remain favorable (cooler temperatures, low winds, and high moisture content in soil and surrounding plants), Forest Service fire managers hope the fire will continue it’s movement through the wilderness so more of the forest can reap these environmental benefits.
Firefighting students at the Wolf Creek Job Corps recently called on their emergency response skills to aid an injured motorist.
Members of the center’s staff called 911 after a second motorist drove 20 miles to the center to report a vehicle crash on the Umpqua National Forest. The injured motorist was transported by ambulance to the center, and a REACH flight helicopter was called in.
“Normally the ground unit that is requesting us sets up a pre-determined landing area or has a local fire department assist with this task,” Brittany Countryman, a REACH flight crew member and registered nurse, wrote in a letter to the center’s firefighters and staff. “On this very dark night there was no one available to help us land or locate a safe place to land. Troy and the group of young men that met us were fast; we made the decision to try to land at the Job Corps field and within minutes there was a well-lit area to guide us in.”
The student firefighters gathered in formation to simulate a ring of helicopter landing zone lights that allowed the air medical services crew to land safely on the center’s baseball field, which served as the extraction point. They also helped off-load the stabilized patient from the ground ambulance, and transported her across the Little River to the helicopter.
“Wolf Creek fire students are trained to respond to all risk incidents under the incident command structure,” Gabe Wishart, the center’s director, said. “Our students’ ability to respond under stress, follow instruction, and to work safely in atypical situations such as this medical evacuation demonstrates the effectiveness of that training.”
In recent years, recreation visits have steadily increased on national forests… and the problem of discarded trash sometimes seems to have increased exponentially with the increase in visitors.
KMTR-TV 16 helped staff remind western and central Oregon communities. that trash dumping isn’t welcome on the Willamette National Forest or any other public lands.
The story aired a few days before Independence Day holiday, an especially busy time for recreational visits to National Forests all around the country.
Many forest visitors have heard frequent admonitions from federal, state and local agencies – as well as environmental advocates – to “leave no trace.” But many still fail to realize that discarded trash isn’t just a nuisance; it can be an environmental hazard, threaten wildlife health and safety, and even have adverse impacts on human health.
Phosphorous-heavy soaps and detergents can foster algae and microbe growth – which can result in algae blooms that irritate eyes and skin for humans and wildlife, or other algae growth that trap oxygen needed by fish when it decomposes in the lakes and streams where they live.
Pet waste may carry parasites or microbes that are deadly to wildlife.
And while all trash litters the natural landscapes others come to the forest to enjoy, some creates health and safety hazards for those who encounter it – while also creating many hours of work for volunteers and federal land managers who must train for, plan, and conduct a safe and thorough clean-up of the affected area when such dumping occurs.
The “10 Outdoor Essentials” should be second-nature for anyone engaging in responsible recreation on public lands.
Yet every day, people head outdoors unprepared.
Don’t do it!
The “essentials” list, recognized by everyone from scouts to mountaineers, is an easy way to make sure you’re prepared for anything that comes your way while enjoying the great outdoors.
Can you wear flipflops in the woods? Sure – but make sure you also have sneakers or boots in your pack, in case you get caught outdoors longer than planned.
Speaking of which, have a plan!
Make sure someone knows where you are going and how long you will be gone, so they can sound the alarm if you don’t return when expected.
Shandra Terry, from the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s Office of Communications and Community Engagement, shared these and other essential outdoor tips with KATU-2 Afternoon Live host Tra’Renee Chambers in Portland, Ore. June 4.
Public lands are open to all, but research shows not everyone feels equally at home in them. That’s a problem for our national forests, which are managed by public resources that won’t be made available if the public doesn’t understand their needs. And it’s a missed opportunity for Americans who are not aware of, not encouraged to, or who don’t feel empowered to enjoy the incredible recreation opportunities, inspiration, and personal health and well-being that can be found on public lands. That individual disparity adds up to effects on society as a whole, though less public awareness of rural and ecological issues and in less diversity among applications for forestry-related science programs and for natural resources jobs.
This New York Times article talks about the disparities that exist, and how members of some underrepresented communities are seeking to change it.
Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer in the Pacific Northwest. With warmer weather and dry conditions already present or on their way, state and federal land management agencies – including the USDA Forest Service – are reminding recreationalists that we need everyone’s help to prevent human-caused fires on our forests and other public lands.
You can find some great campfire safety tips from Chris Havel at Oregon Parks and Recreation Department the KTVZ-TV 21 story, linked below.
Other frequent sources of unplanned wildland fire include backyard debris burning, and motor vehicles, chains, or other equipment that heats up or throws sparks in proximity to dry grass or brush. Find more information and tips to reduce the risks at https://www.smokeybear.com/en.
A recent study analyzing more than a decade’s worth of fish migration data suggests the recently-adopted practice of seasonally draining an Oregon reservoir has boosted downstream migration of an endangered salmon species, while flushing two predatory invasive species.
A team of researchers from Oregon State University, USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station, and the Army Corps of Engineers found that juvenile spring chinook salmon raised in Fall Creek Reservoir, located about 30 miles southeast of Eugene, Ore. in the Willamette River basin, registered stronger downstream migrations in the years after the Army Corps of Engineers began draining the reservoir for a brief time, every autumn.
The practice also flushed populations of two invasive species, the largemouth bass and crappie, out of the reservoir – potentially improving survival of future salmon in the system.
We talk a lot about the 10 Outdoor Essentials here at Your Northwest Forests, and there’s a reason for it- again and again, we’ve seen that when the unexpected occurs, just a little preparation can make the difference between an uncomfortable experience and a life-threatening emergency.
That goes even more so for technical climbing, such as the increasingly popular snow- and ice- covered climbs approaching the summit of mountains located just beyond the Pacific Northwest’s urban areas, like Mt. Rainier and Mt. Hood.
This KGW-TV story, produced with assistance from volunteers from Portland Mountain Rescue, does a great job showing why the mountain appeals to so many – and why such climbs are so dangerous, even when many other visitors seem to be using the same route and summer weather is imminent.