Three organizations call for more ambitious hazardous fuels mitigation

burned structure Eiler Fire wildfire

A burned structure at the Eiler Fire in northern California, August 6, 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Three non-profit organizations involved with wildland fire issued a joint position statement recommending that land managers adopt a more ambitious stance toward hazardous fuels mitigation. The 13-page document was released this week by the Association for Fire Ecology, the International Association of Wildland Fire, and The Nature Conservancy.

The organizations identified costs as one of the main concerns and pointed out that missing from most accounting of wildfire costs are indirect, such as rehabilitation, real estate devaluation, and emergency services — that can be two to 30 times more than the actual expenses to fight the fire.

The paper listed four cost-related issues:

1. SUPPRESSION COSTS INCREASING.The cost of wildfire suppression has continued to increase over the last decade.
2. FIRES ARE COSTING TAXPAYERS MORE. Wildfires are costing taxpayers far more than is typically reported by governments and the media.
3. INVESTMENTS NEEDED. Investment in wildfire hazard mitigation needs to be increased and maintained.
4. FUELS TREATMENTS NEED TO BE TREATED RIGHT. Fuel treatments are supported by current and developing science.

The organizations recommend federal wildfire funding reform, reduction of impediments to hazardous fuels mitigation, emphasizing prescribed fire and wildfires managed for resource benefits, and tracking long-term and multi-sector economic losses caused by wildfire.

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Honoring our veterans and military personnel today

Veterans Cemetery memorial day Hot Springs

Veterans Cemetery at Hot Springs, South Dakota. Memorial Day, 2015.

Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. The holiday, which is observed every year on the last Monday of May, originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans — established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service.

Photo by Bill Gabbert. Text from Wikipedia.

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Comparison photos, 6 days and 39 days after escaped prescribed fire

Cold Brook Fire

Highway 385, which can be seen in the distance, was supposed to be the boundary of the prescribed fire. Only the land on the far side of the highway was planned to burn.

Wind Cave prescribed fire

These photos were taken by Bill Gabbert in the area burned when the April 13 Cold Brook prescribed fire escaped in Wind Cave National Park. In each pair of pictures, the first was taken on April 19, 6 days after the fire, and the next was taken on May 22, 39 days after the fire.

Cold Brook Fire

Looking east from the planned burn area to Highway 385 which did not serve as an adequate fire line under the conditions that day.

Wind Cave prescribed fire

Cold Brook Fire

Wind Cave prescribed fire

Cold Brook Fire

The north end of the fire, east of Highway 385.

Wind Cave prescribed fire

Related articles on Wildfire Today:

Cold Brook prescribed fire escapes in South Dakota
Wind Cave National Park bounces back from escaped prescribed fire

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Wind Cave National Park bounces back from escaped prescribed fire

With copious rain over the last five weeks since the Cold Brook prescribed fire escaped control in Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota on April 13, the additional 5,000 acres outside the planned burn unit is in serious green-up. Most of the “bonus acres” had been treated at least once with previous prescribed fires, so there was not a heavy build up of fuel within the timbered areas. The escape, even though it was pushed by a strong wind, did not have high mortality in the Ponderosa pines. Most of the areas we saw near U.S. Highway 385 look like a typical prescribed fire in the park, however there were a few patches of pine that were taken out.

All of the photos below were taken by Bill Gabbert on May 22, 2015, 39 days after the fire. Click on the photos to see larger versions.

Wind Cave National Park prescribed fire

The bison are enjoying the nutrient-rich fresh green grass in the burned area. The one in the foreground is wallowing in dirt.

Wind Cave National Park prescribed fire

The lower branches on these Ponderosa pines had been burned off in a prescribed fire about 15 years ago, so they were virtually unscathed this time.

Wind Cave National Park prescribed fire

Wind Cave National Park prescribed fire Wind Cave National Park prescribed fire

Wind Cave National Park prescribed fire

One objective of most of the prescribed fires in the Park is to remove some of the pine reproduction that is encroaching into the prairie. The brown seedlings here indicate some success in that regard.

Wind Cave National Park prescribed fire

Related articles:

Cold Brook prescribed fire escapes in South Dakota
Comparison photos, 6 days and 39 days after escaped prescribed fire

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Yarnell Hill Fire survivor to be deposed

Brendan McDonough

Brendan McDonough. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The Republic is reporting that the only survivor of the Granite Mountain Hotshots will be questioned under oath later this month. This will be the first time that Brendan McDonough, who was serving as a lookout when the other 19 members of the crew were entrapped by fire and killed in 2013, will undergo a sworn deposition.

The testimony may provide more information about why the crew left the safety of a previously burned area on the Yarnell Hill Fire and walked through unburned brush where they were overrun by the fire. The deposition is scheduled for 9 a.m. May 28 at a Phoenix law office.

As we wrote on April 4, an article in the April 3 edition of the Arizona Republic included information that was previously unknown to the public. The publication reported that Mr. McDonough who was serving as a lookout away from the crew during the tragedy, overheard a radio conversation between the Division Supervisor, Eric Marsh, and Jesse Steed who was temporarily serving as the Hotshots’ crew boss. Supposedly Mr. Marsh who normally was the Crew Boss or Superintendent of the crew, told Mr. Steed to have the crew leave the safety zone and to join him at a ranch.

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Cold Brook prescribed fire escapes in South Dakota (updated with post-fire photos)

(UPDATED at 4 p.m. April 19, 2015)

Cold Brook Fire

Highway 385, which can be seen in the distance, was supposed to be the boundary of the prescribed fire. Only the land on the far side of the highway was planned to burn.

After being out of town for a while, today we saw the Cold Brook escaped prescribed fire in Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota for the first time. Our initial impression was that a very small percentage of the Ponderosa Pine trees lost their canopies to the fire; the mortality was very low. This is largely due to a series of prescribed fires that were conducted in the area about 13 to 16 years ago. Those burns eliminated some trees and “raised the canopy” on many; that is, some of the lower limbs were burned off reducing the ladder fuels that could later carry a fire into the crowns.

Approximately 5,420 acres burned outside the prescribed fire unit, all within the National Park.

The fire would have burned private land outside the park if the Casey Ranch south of the park had not been added a few years ago. The fire burned quite a few acres east of Highway 385 and south of the former park boundary.

In that area, a residence that remains on private land had the fire burn right up to their back yard, as you can see in the photo below.

Cold Brook Fire

The fire burned up to the back yard of a private residence near Highway 385. A blackened area can be seen on the left side of the photo.

When the fire escaped, it ran to the east for about four to five miles.

Cold Brook Fire

Looking east from the planned burn area to Highway 385 which did not serve as an adequate fire line under the conditions that day.

All of these photos in today’s update were taken by Bill Gabbert. Click on them to see larger versions.

Cold Brook Fire

Cold Brook Fire

The north end of the fire, east of Highway 385.

Cold Brook Fire

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