Category Archives: Smoke

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).

Fire season safety tips for smoke-sensitive persons, drivers

Smoke blowing over a roadway nearly obscures USDA Forest Service wildland fire truck (WA-OWF E644) and a wildland firefighter from the camera's view.

While the “fire season” is off to a slower-than-normal start in many parts of the Pacific Northwest, fires like the Milepost 97 are here and ready to remind fire isn’t the only seasonal hazard to watch for. There are also two, other, closely related risks faced by our firefighters and our community during the season: smoke and motor vehicle traffic.

Even small fires can send a lot of smoke into nearby roadways. Sometimes, even smoke drift from distant fires can create enough haze to reduce visibility. That reduced visibility is a risk to pedestrians, other motorists (including those in or responding to disabled vehicles along the road shoulder), and even firefighters working nearby.

If you’re traveling in areas with nearby fire activity, be careful and use extra caution. In addition to reduced or poor visibility, you may encounter heavy equipment and firefighting trucks on the road. Drive carefully, slow down, and give plenty of space to firefighters and fire vehicles. Use extra caution when driving in smoke-filled conditions; debris, disabled vehicles and pedestrians may be concealed from view until you’re vehicle is just a few feet away.

Follow these tips to keep yourself and others, including firefighters and smoke-sensitive loved ones, safe!

  • If your travel plans require you to drive on routes that are impacted by fire or firefighting activity, consider alternate travel dates and/or routes.
  • If you must drive, pay close attention to road closures and warnings.
  • Be alert! Fire activity and subsequent operations can change quickly.  Adapt driving patterns accordingly and always yield to emergency responders.
  • Navigation applications on smart phones or other devices (GPS / maps) may not accurately reflect changing conditions. Watch out for changing local conditions and detours.
  • Plan ahead. If you live in a fire-prone area (which is all of us, in the Pacific Northwest!), keep your gas tank filled at least 3/4 full at all times. Maintain a clean air filter, and carry paper map or road atlas to assist you in travelling in areas with limited cell phone reception. Bring an extra cell phone charger (and battery back-up); make sure you have a spare tire and jack; and carry extra water, food, a first aid kit and a blanket in your vehicle at all times.
  • Remove unnecessary flammables from the vehicle, such as containers of gas and oil.
  • Stay calm and focus on driving tasks. Drivers should not be texting, taking photos or video footage, no matter what is unfolding around them!
  • Keep headlights “on” for safety when driving.
  • Keep vehicle windows closed when travelling through smoke, and close all exterior air vents; set air conditioning to the “recirculation” setting.
  • Smoke-filled air can also impact health at home, particularly for young children, the elderly, and for people with chronic heart or lung conditions such as asthma, emphysema, and COPD. If possible, maintain a “clean room” at home in which air can be filtered by an appropriately-sized filtration system; ideally, a True HEPA filter rated to remove 99.97% of particles of .3 microns or larger, paired with an activated charcoal filter to trap volatile organic compounds. (An air ionizer may also be helpful, but discuss your plans with a doctor as not everyone is a good candidate. Those with sensitive lungs should only run an ionizer while away from home to avoid breathing ionized particles, and people who are sensitive to ozone should not use ionizers).
  • Plan ahead! It’s important for everyone to have an emergency evacuation plan, but it is especially important for those with special needs, pets, or who do not have access to a motor vehicle to plan ahead. Find advice on emergency preparedness planning at RedCross.org and at Ready.gov.

Planning travel, and need the latest traffic, smoke and safety updates? These websites can help!

In the News: Lightning-caused fire in Eagle Cap Wilderness may bring eco-benefits

Smoke rises from a forest fire, viewed from the air. A portion of the aircraft being used for aerial monitoring of the fire is visible in the foreground.

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.

Full story, via the East Oregonian: https://www.eastoregonian.com/news/local/forest-service-monitoring-lightning-fire-in-eagle-cap-wilderness/article_8bdfaf7a-b470-11e9-b17f-1b8cec829c17.html

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.

Smokey Bear to bring fire prevention message to Oregon license plates this summer

Smokey Bear is an iconic symbol of wildfire prevention. Oregon's new Keep Oregon Green special license plate joins 1950's artist Rudy Wendelin’s Smokey Bear with a backdrop of Oregon's lush forests. The plate's $40 surcharge will help fund wildfire prevention education activities around Oregon, which share Smokey and KOG's shared message regarding the shared responsibility to prevent human-caused wildfires.

Keep Oregon Green, in partnership with the USDA Forest Service, the Ad Council, and Oregon Department of Forestry, have partnered to bring Smokey Bear and his important message to Oregon drivers: Only YOU can prevent wildland fires.

The Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles sold 3,000 vouchers for a new, Smokey Bear -emblazoned license plate in December.

The vouchers serve as pre-payment for the special plate surcharge fee for drivers hoping to adopt the new plate; the sale of 3,000 vouchers is required for the state to begin placing orders for plates with a new design.

With 3,000 vouchers sold in just a few days, the plate is will go into production soon, and will become available to vehicle owners registering their passenger vehicles, or replacing their existing license plates, later this year.

Once the plates are released, any Oregon vehicle owner can apply by paying a $40 “special plates” surcharge when registering for new or replacement license plates, in addition to the usual registration and plate fees.

The surcharge will help fund wildfire prevention activities conducted by Keep Oregon Green, an organization that educates the public about the shared responsibility to prevent human-caused wildfire in communities throughout Oregon.

For more information, visit:
https://keeporegongreen.org/smokey-bear-license-plate/


Source information:
The Keep Oregon Green Association was established in 1941 to promote healthy landscapes and safe communities by educating the public of everyone’s shared responsibility to prevent human-caused wildfires.

Smokey Bear was created in 1944, when the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council agreed that a fictional bear would be the symbol for their joint effort to promote forest fire prevention. Smokey’s image is protected by U.S. federal law and is administered by the USDA Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters and the Ad Council.

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/.

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

In the News: Is thinning enough to save forests, communities?

firefighters set grass and brush on fire among a stand of evergreen trees along a dirt road to create a barrier of spent fuel to stop an oncoming wildfire

“Done right, forest thinning and fire treatments can work. Many say Sisters, Oregon is proof… Crews have been thinning, mowing, and burning the Deschutes National Forest for at least a decade. They think that work saved Sisters last summer, helping 675 firefighters stave off the Milli Fire as it raced towards town. It has been praised as an example of how proactive forest work can prevent deadly wildfire disasters. But even in the Deschutes, treatments fall short of historic burning rates by 30,000 acres every year….”

Oregon Public Broadcasting has a new installment in EarthFix reporter Tony Schick’s in-depth reporting on wildland fire in the Pacific Northwest.

The new story follows the Wolf Creek Hotshots on the Deschutes National Forest as they conduct a prescribed burn, and compares the impact of various fuels reduction treatments on the landscape, and on future fires.

Read more, or hear the radio version of the story, at OPB.orghttps://www.opb.org/news/article/west-wildfire-risks-fuels-treatment-thinning-burning/

 

Smoke is in the air – how to prepare, protect yourself

map showing July 23, 2018 air quality and smoke data