Black Lining With a Machine

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in South Dakota has been experimenting with a tractor-towed machine that creates black lines which can be put in prior to a prescribed fire. Black lines, a relatively narrow strip of burned vegetation along the perimeter of a planned prescribed fire project, can make the ignition and holding of the main burn go much more quickly and also reduce the chance of a slop-over.

The equipment is made by Firebreak Equipment, a firm in South Africa. Their web site does not play well with Firefox–it’s better with Internet Explorer. More photos are on their web album.

The device uses propane burners in a metal enclosure to burn the ground fuel, while water nozzles on the sides create a wet line to keep the fire from spreading. This toy tool looks like it would be fun to play with.

Wayne National Forest Coal Refuse Fire

I have seen coal seam fires in Alaska that were started by lightning, but until today I had never heard of a “coal refuse fire”. Apparently they are pretty common in southeast Ohio where the Wayne National Forest has been dealing with this mostly underground, one-acre “Coal Dale” fire since October 29. Now they are saying it is out.

According to the Logan Daily News:

“Using heavy equipment, D.J. Group, Inc. from Beverly spread the burning coal debris out onto a previously stripped mined area where it was extinguished. Once the material cooled, the entire area was graded to its original condition. This spring the area will be reseeded and planted with trees native to the area.”

Here is a link to the InciWeb info, but it has not been updated since November 20.
(photo by US Forest Service)

Well Written Reviews of Two Wildland Fire Books

Towards the end of last year two books about wildland fire were published. The Thirtymile Fire,” by John N. Maclean, and “A Great Day to Fight Fire” by Mark Matthews. The topic of Maclean’s book is obvious. Matthews writes about the 1949 Mann Gulch fire, which Maclean’s father also covered in his book, “Young Men and Fire” which was finished in 1992 by others after his death.

A writer for the High Country News, Ray Ring, reviewed both new books, showing more understanding of fire than most reviewers. Here’s a sample where Ring writes about “A Great Day to Fight Fire“. (The entire review can be found on the Vail Trail site.)

“Matthews’ book on the gulch fire is the literary landmark there now. It’s also a kind of policy landmark. Matthews spends a few words on how the Mann Gulch deaths led to improvements in firefighting, but his underlying message is that, no matter what tactics we try, no matter what technologies we develop, wildfires will always be wild, chaotic and lethal. As global warming promotes more intense blazes, we can only reduce the risk of casualties by backing away from the flames. Let more fires burn on their own terms; that’s part of Matthews’ acceptance. And the next time prosecutors and next-of kin rush to assign blame for casualties, maybe we should hold off. The deaths and injuries radiating outward are already punishment enough. In the desperate moments when the flames come too close, we’re all perfect in our imperfections.”

Major Die-Off of Lodgepoles in WY and CO

I have been seeing these headlines but had not read the articles until a portion of a summary caught my eye:

“The Rocky Mountain News reported this week that every large, mature forest of lodgepole pines in Colorado and southern Wyoming will be dead in three to five years.”

That sounds extreme. The conventional public and media “wisdom” is that it is caused by global warming. Warmer winters result in less mortality of pine bark beetles, causing more mortality of lodgepole pine.

But other factors are the drought (more stress on trees), and fire suppression (lodgepole stands are older and closer to their 200-300 year fire return interval and natural decadence).

But regardless of the reason, these stands are dieing now, and it could have a major effect on the resistance to control of fires in the area.

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