Category Archives: Prescribed fire

In the News: ‘Fire and smoke – we’re in it together’

Fire & Smoke. . . Chris Chambers, City of Ashland, Ore. and Merv George Jr., Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, speak at a TEDxAshland event in Talent, Ore. May 20, 2019. (Screen capture via YouTube, Aug. 20, 2019).

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.

Watch:

TEDxAshland in Talent, Ore., recorded May 20, 2019 (link via YouTube).

August is Fire Hire season for Forest Service in WA, OR

Images of an aircraft dropping fire retardant, a fire truck and crew, fire personnel in nomex and protective gear reviewing a map in the field, a firefighter spraying water on a fire from a hose, a firefighter hand crew, and a firefighter lighting dry grass using a drip torch. Text: 2019 Fire Hire, USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region.

PORTLAND, Ore. (July 31, 2019) — The annual “fire hire” hiring event for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region opens Aug. 1, 2019.

The Forest Service is looking for committed, hardworking, highly-skilled employees to support wildfire suppression, fuels reduction and other fire management work on 17 National Forests in Oregon and Washington.

The fire and aviation program features rewarding opportunities for candidates with seasonal wildland firefighting experience to pursue challenging, full-time positions with the agency.

The agency uses the centralized, annual “fire hire” process for hiring most positions in the region’s permanent fire management workforce.

Specialized opportunities being offered include dispatch, engine crew positions, fuels technicians, hand crew members, helitack crew members, hotshot crew remembers, smokejumpers, and fire prevention and education specialists.

Opportunities will be posted at www.usajobs.gov, with an application window of Aug. 1-28, 2019.

Vacancy announcements for seasonal opportunities during the summer, 2020 wildland fire season – which includes the majority of the region’s entry-level and trainee fire management opportunities – will be posted to USAJobs in September, 2019.

“Fire Hire” timeline:

  • Aug. 1, 2019: Vacancy announcements are posted to USAJobs.
  • Aug. 28, 2019: Application deadline, 7:59 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (10:59 p.m. EDT, or 11:59 EST). Applicants are encouraged to read all vacancy announcements carefully prior to applying, and ensure all required documents are included with their submission. Applicants are also encouraged to apply for multiple locations (where they would accept a position if offered), even if positions for certain locations are not listed as vacant, as vacancies may occur during the hiring process and could be filled during Selection Week.
  • Oct. 15-31, 2019: Supervisory Reference Checks, and Subject Matter Expert evaluations occur during these weeks. Please ensure your references are notified of this and they are available at the email address (preferred) or phone number provided on your application.
  • Nov. 4-22, 2019: Selection week. Representatives from each forest will make recommendations for hiring, and candidates selected will be notified by a Forest Service representative by phone. Those not selected should check their USAJobs account for status updates. During the selection week candidates will be given 4 hours to respond to voicemails or emails from the recommending officials. It is highly encouraged candidates plan be available via phone during this time!
  • March, 2020: Earliest possible effective date for new hires.

Note: Where Interagency Fire Program Management (IFPM) and Forest Service – Fire Program Management (FS-FPM) qualifications are required, these qualifications must be met prior to the closing date on the vacancy being applied for. Applicants with relevant fire certifications or experience must provide a current copy of their IQCS Master Record, where indicated in the announcement, to meet qualification requirements for positions with IQCS requirements.

For more information: Visit https://go.usa.gov/xyfx8.

Images of an aircraft dropping fire retardant, a fire truck and crew, fire personnel in nomex and protective gear reviewing a map in the field, a firefighter spraying water on a fire from a hose, a firefighter hand crew, and a firefighter lighting dry grass using a drip torch. Text: 2019 Fire Hire, USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region. Apply on www.usajobs.gov August 1-28.
The USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s next “Fire Hire” hiring event is Aug. 1-28, 2019 at https://www.usajobs.gov. Applicants are encouraged to apply for current and potential vacancies at all locations they are interested in being considered for, for a variety of permanent, full-time positions supporting fire and aviation management programs on 17 National Forests in Washington and Oregon, with projected start dates in spring-summer, 2020.

SWEET HOME TO DC: 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree tour enjoys good weather, high spirits

A Soda Springs, Idaho grade school choir performs during a 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree whistlestop

Sweet Home to DC: The 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree journey

A Modern Day Adventure on the Historic Oregon Trail

Each year, a National Forest provides a Christmas Tree for display on the U.S. Capitol lawn in Washington D.C. This year’s tree is travelling from the Willamette National Forest’s Sweet Home Ranger District, in the western Cascade mountain range. District Ranger Nikki Swanson is recording her notes from the journey for the Your Northwest Forests blog.

To read previous entries, visit https://yournorthwestforests.org/category/capitol-christmas-tree/.

For more information, visit the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree website, www.capitolchristmastree.com, and story map: https://arcg.is/10DOyv

Track the tree! Follow the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree on its Return to the Oregon Trail journey in near real-time, at www.trackthetree.com


November 16th, 2018
Evanston, Wyo.

Here we have Idaho

There’s truly one state in this great land of ours,
where ideals can be realized.
The pioneers made it so for you and me,
a legacy we’ll always prize.

– a verse from “Here We Have Idaho”
(Idaho state song)

Here we have Idaho… and Utah… and Wyoming!

We traveled 203 miles through this fine land, from Pocatello, Idaho to Evanston, Wyo., with a stop in Soda Springs, Idaho – and we even passed through a wee bit of Utah along the way!

The weather was good.  We are told we should enjoy it while it lasts; there is a snow storm a-brewing.

Pocatello welcomed us with open arms. There were so many people who came out to sign the banner and to wish us well on our journey. I have to say, the people of Idaho are the most polite, yet. At other stops along the way, people would surround our booth in crowds six-people deep. The polite people of Pocatello formed a civilized line  I wonder if you can tell the character of a town by how they gather?

Our next stop was Soda Springs, which was a favorite location for weary pioneer travelers who loved the natural carbonated water and Steamboat Spring, a natural geyser that is now submerged below the waters of Alexandria Reservoir.

Soda Springs is small town America at its finest. They set up bleachers and treated us all to performances from their grade school choir, middle school cheerleaders, the high school dance team, and the high school band.  So much talent assembled in one place!

The drive from Soda Springs to Evanston was beautiful. Big views and beautiful rock formations made the miles pass quickly. The little bit of Utah that we saw was also beautiful.

Water for livestock was still scarce, luckily we have none with us. 

The theme of the day was family connections. Parents brought children to see this little piece of history. We enjoyed many conversations about ancestors who made their way west along the Oregon Trail, and locals explained the history behind landmarks and streets named to remember those who came before us on the trail.

Nikki Swanson
District Ranger, Sweet Home Ranger District
Willamette National Forest

Fighting fires with fire: Prescribed fires restore healthy balance in forests

A firefighter with a radio monitors walks through brush in an area being treated by prescribed fire

As another hot, dry summer of fighting wildland fires winds down, National Forests and other Pacific Northwest land managers have begun to turn their attention to prescribed fires, or fires intentionally set to perform ecological work on the landscape.

Fire is an essential, natural process, having shaped the landscape for thousands of years, releasing, and recycling nutrients from vegetation, duff, and soil layers, improving the overall health of plants and animals.

In the Pacific Northwest, forests evolved to experience periodic fires that can thin overgrowth on the forest floor and make space for larger, healthier trees. On forests and grasslands, some invasive species may prove vulnerable to fires, while some native species actually require fire to release or germinate seeds.

“Prescribed fire is the right fire, in the right place, for the right reasons,” Rob Allen, fire staff officer for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest said. “It’s a proactive step- a choice to put fire to work for our communities and forests rather than just fight against it year after year.”

A stand of trees previously treated with prescribed fire.

After a prescribed fire on the Ochoco National Forest, Oregon, mature trees enjoy healthier spacing, while charred wood from dead trees provides wildlife habitat and fast-growing grasses and low-growing vegetation removed by quickly return to the area. USDA Forest Service photo.

Land managers have increasingly embraced prescribed fire as a management tool in recent years, as research began to point to an increasing number of larger, hotter “mega-fires” in the region that are believed to be fueled, in part, by a century of fire management decisions encouraging suppression of all fires — including the smaller, lower intensity fires, such as those set naturally by lightning during the cooler, wetter months.

Paul Hessburg, a scientist for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station estimates prescribed fires (and management of suitable natural fires) need to occur at six times recent rates to restore the “historical fire regime” to forests in Washington and Oregon.

In Central Washington, firefighters from seven agencies across the state will manage prescribed fires across central Washington, including the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, as part of a formal training exchange (TREX). Sponsored by the Fire Learning Network, TREX provides a unique opportunity for fire personnel from across the region to learn about prescribed fire and forest health across agency boundaries. Land managers from multiple agencies plan to burn up to 950 acres during the two-week TREX, and up to 5300 acres across the eastern Cascades this summer.

A low-intensity prescribed fire burns grass and brush while leaving larger trees intact.

A prescribed fire burns “low and slow” across an area on the Colville National Forest, Washington. Large, healthy trees with thicker bark may lose lower branches, but typically survive low-intensity fire, while smaller trees, brush, and diseased trees are typically burned away. Some native Pacific Northwest tress, grasses and wildflowers trees depend on fire to propagate, or have fire-resistant seeds that thrive in spaces where fires have cleared competing non-native species and seeds. USDA Forest Service photo.

On the Malheur National Forest in northeast Oregon, land managers have announced plans to burn parcels ranging from 150 to 4,000 acres, as weather permits, this fall.

On the Siuslaw National Forest, located on the central Oregon Coast, firefighters will burn “slash,” piles of debris and limbs that have accumulated throughout the year from timber sales and large scale restoration projects, to reduce the risk of these debris becoming fuel for wildland fires. All burning will be administered and overseen by trained firefighting personnel.

“This is the ideal time,” Dan Eddy, Siuslaw National Forest deputy fire staff officer, said. “The ground is damp from recent rains making it an effective way to remove non-merchantable wood debris before it can become a hazardous fuel in the dry summer months.”

Firefighters will also conduct prescribed burns in the Drift Creek area, (6 miles east of Waldport), and off Forest Service Road 52 in the Tidewater area (12 miles east of Waldport), on the Siuslaw National Forest.

Safety and smoke are the two concerns most people raise when they hear about plans for prescribed fires in their community.

That’s understandable, Allen said. “Clean air matters to all of us.”

A firefighter uses a drip torch to set fire to brush

A firefighter uses a drip torch to set fire to brush during a prescribed burn on the Klamath Ranger District on the Fremont-Winema National Forest, Oregon April 26, 2013. USDA Forest Service photo

Each prescribed fire represents many weeks of planning and preparation. Prescribed fires are managed using techniques that reduce fire intensity and smoke, such as careful site selection and attention to air and ground moisture,  atmospheric pressure, and wind.

Because firefighters choose the place, time, and conditions under which prescribed fires occur, they typically have much less impact on the surrounding community than wildland fires that aren’t planned.

Over time, land managers believe having more prescribed fires will reduce the amount of smoke experienced by communities, by preventing or limiting the size and intensity of wildland fires that occur on previously burned acreage.

More information:

Learn more about why fire on is needed on Pacific Northwest landscapes – and how prescribed fires can help in –  at https://www.north40productions.com/eom-home/.

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

VIDEO: Drones are changing how wildland fire is fought

A firefighter loads plastic sphere dispensers into an unmanned aerial system, or drone, that will be used to deliver the payload

Drones are changing the way we scout and manage wildland fires; getting eyes on backcountry and steep terrain without additional “boots on the ground,” providing real-time information about terrain, conditions and fire intensity – even in zero-visibility smoke – using thermal and infrared cameras, and even allowing firefighters to light backfires, used to encircle and contain a larger fire, remotely in terrain that can’t be safely accessed by firefighters.

In this video, Incident Commander Tom Kurth with the Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team introduces four applications for unmanned aerial systems, or drones, for use in fire management: aerial survey; heat location; aerial firing; and mapping. The Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team was assigned to incidents in southwest Oregon during the summer of 2018.

 

Unauthorized drones are a serious hazard to aviators, aircraft and firefighters during wildland fires. Not only do they place aircraft, passengers and crews at risk, but dection of unauthorized flights grounds dozens of emergency air resource flights supporting wildland firefighting efforts every year.

Unmanned Aerial Systems, or drones, are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration.  Never use a personal drone to fly over an emergency response area, and check for temporary flight restrictions every time you fly.

All drones are aircraft - even the ones at the toy store. When you fly a drone, you're a pilot. Use your pre-flight checklist - stay below 400 ft., stay within your visual line of sight, don't fly within 5 miles of an airport without first contacting air traffic control and airport authorities, and always check for temporary flight restrictions before you fly. For more info, visit faa.gov/uas or knowbeforeyoufly.org

All drones are aircraft – even the ones at the toy store. When you fly a drone, you’re a pilot. Use your pre-flight checklist – stay below 400 ft., stay within your visual line of sight, don’t fly within 5 miles of an airport without first contacting air traffic control and airport authorities, and always check for temporary flight restrictions before you fly. For more info, visit faa.gov/uas or knowbeforeyoufly.org


Source information: Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team, via Northwest Interagency Fire Information Center – Pacific Northwest Fire Information, on YouTube

50,000 acres of forest restoration work approved on Okanogan-Wenatchee NF

A stand of ponderosa pine with limited brush and healthy tree spacing

TWISP, Wash.  —May 19, 2018 — Beginning as soon as this fall, work will begin to restore forest health in Washington State’s Methow Valley, as part of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest‘s Mission Restoration Project.

The 50,000 acre project includes mechanical forest thinning, prescribed fire, and other restoration work in the Libby Creek and Buttermilk drainages, located between Carlton and Twisp, Wash.

“This decision is a win for wildlife, water quality, reducing fire risk, the local economy, and so much more,” Paul Nash, Timber Management Assistant for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Washington State, said. “In strong partnership with the local community and forest stakeholders, we are proactively restoring the Libby Creek and Buttermilk landscape.”

Final decision highlights:

  • Over the next 15 years, good fire will be returned to the landscape, reducing hazardous fuels on approximately 10,200 acres (with no more than 2,000 acres burned per year).
  • Long-term water quality and aquatic habitat would be improved throughout the watershed with the replacement of eight undersized culverts.
  • Commercial thinning would help restore dense, overcrowded forests on 1,853 acres while non-commercial thinning is planned on just over 8,300 acres.
  • Elevated risk of crown fires, which spread rapidly and do more damage to mature trees than ground-level fires, would be reduced across the project area – including areas where private or state lands meet federal lands.
  • The project is projected to generate more than $3.2 million dollars in timber value at the mill and support more than 172 jobs.
  • More than 66 miles of roads would remain open to provide for sustainable and safe forest recreation access.
  • Firewood cutting opportunities would exist wherever feasible, after commercial and non-commercial thinning operations have been completed.
  • More than 460 sites are planned for soil restoration to increase watershed function.

“We reviewed feedback and concerns from more than 900 comments over the past two and a half years to reach this decision,” Nash said. “Thank you to everyone who lent their voice to the important work of forest restoration.”

The project record and decision notice are available at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=49201.

The first commercial thinning sale from the project will be a stewardship sale whereby proceeds from the sale will be utilized to fund additional restoration work including aspen regeneration and wetland habitat enhancement.


Source information: Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest public affairs staff