Report released for escaped prescribed fire on Kaibab NF

The U. S. Forest Service has released an “Escaped Fire Review” for the Twin prescribed fire which escaped control on the Kaibab National Forest in Arizona on October 2, 2009. Wildfire Today reported on the incident. One of our articles received 15 comments.

Here is an excerpt from the review:

The Review Team found four causal factors contributing to the escape and conversion to wildfire. These four are:

  • Wind Direction Shift – An unforecasted wind direction change resulted in a decision to change ignition operations to prevent established fire from reaching the east control line without a black buffer to protect it. Spot fires that ultimately led to the escape occurred on the east side of the burn unit and presented greater difficulty for holding due to complex terrain and changing fuel types outside the unit.
  • Exceeding Relative Humidity Parameter in Prescription in Combination with Changing Wind Direction – Prescribed burning continued when actual relative humidity levels dropped below prescribed ranges, contributing to spot fire propagation and growth. It is not known if this situation alone would have caused escape of the prescribed fire – it did not in the other burn unit.
  • Fuel Type Differences Outside the Burn Unit – Fuel loading northeast of the burn unit changes significantly to a heavier fuel type increasing resistance to control.
  • Contingency Resource Identification in the Burn Plan – Contingency resources for this burn plan were calculated for fuel models and terrain inside the burn unit which differed significantly from terrain and fuels outside the burn unit. The resource capabilities were not adequate for the differing fuels and terrain.
  • Ensure compliance with policy and direction regarding prescribed burn planning and implementation.

Recommendations from the Review Team include:

  • Ensure compliance with policy and direction regarding prescribed burn planning and implementation.
  • Improve specificity and clarity of burn plans.
  • Complete detailed reconnaissance of burn units and surrounding area.
  • Verify weather forecasts and compare with prescription parameters.
  • Ensure position qualifications, task book requirements, and documentations are complete and meet requirements.
  • Increase integration and communication between resource areas to prevent conflicting management objectives.
Thanks Dick

Researchers: smoke promotes the germination of some seeds

We used to say “Wood smoke is good smoke”, when downplaying the negative aspects of putting smoke into the air during a prescribed fire. But apparently to some species that is literally the truth. Researchers have found that plant-derived smoke is a potent seed germination promoter for many species.

From an article in Science Daily:

Forest fire smoke. Photo by Bill Gabbert
Photo: Bill Gabbert

The innermost secrets of fire’s role in the rebirth and renewal of forests and grasslands are being revealed in research that has identified plant growth promoters and inhibitors in smoke. In the latest discovery about smoke’s secret life, an international team of scientists are reporting discovery of a plant growth inhibitor in smoke.

The study appears in ACS’s Journal of Natural Products.
“Smoke plays an intriguing role in promoting the germination of seeds of many species following a fire,” Johannes Van Staden and colleagues point out in the report. They previously discovered a chemical compound in smoke from burning plants that promotes seed germination. Such seeds, which remain in the undercover on forest and meadow floors after fires have been extinguished, are responsible for the surprisingly rapid regrowth of fire-devastated landscapes.

In their new research, the scientists report discovery of an inhibitor compound that may block the action of the stimulator, preventing germination of seeds. They suspect that the compounds may be part of a carefully crafted natural regulatory system for repopulating fire-ravaged landscapes. Interaction of these and other compounds may ensure that seeds remain dormant until environmental conditions are best for germination. The inhibitor thus may delay germination of seeds until moisture and temperature are right, and then take a back seat to the germination promoter in smoke.

The research was conducted at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the University of Stellenbosch, the University of Copenhagen,  and the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.

Thanks Stephen

Prescribed burning in Monmouth Battlefield State Park

I ran across some interesting videos of crews doing some prescribed burning in Monmouth Battlefield State Park in New Jersey. Apparently they have a pretty hot prescription for wind speed, and like some other firefighters in the East and South, ride on the back of fire trucks while applying water. All three videos were uploaded to YouTube on January 16, 2009.

The description for all three videos is the same:

B10 crews of the NJ Forest Fire Service doing prescribed burning at Monmouth Battlefield State Park, Manalapan, NJ

Yosemite National Park fire videos

The National Park Service has produced two excellent videos about fire management in Yosemite National Park in California. They are professional quality and rival any of the slick productions you see on broadcast television.

One is titled Best Intentions and gives an overall view of prescribed fire in the park. It is supposed to be 26 minutes long, but while watching it on the park’s web site it abruptly stopped at the 15 minute mark, in the middle of Fuels Specialist Mike Beasley’s interview, which is a shame because Mike is a former co-worker and I was looking forward to seeing his presentation. It is possible to download the entire 48 MB Quicktime video and watch it on your own computer, which would be a work-around for the 15-minute cutoff.

Frame from Best Intentions, NPS video
Frame from Best Intentions, NPS video

The other video is called Restoring a Meadow and is 7 minutes long. It is about removing non-native blackberry and the use of prescribed fire as one of the tools to accomplish that objective.  The most interesting part of the video is how they ignite the prescribed fire without using any matches, fusees, accelerants, or drip torches.

Frame from Restoring a Meadow, NPS video
Frame from Restoring a Meadow, NPS video

Quote of the day

In explaining to a reporter why the Everglades National Park is conducting a 1,500-acre prescribed fire, Rick Anderson, the park’s Fire Management Officer, said in part:

“If we don’t burn it when we can control it, it will burn when we can’t.”

Well said.

File photo of a prescribed fire in Everglades National Park. NPS photo.
File photo of a prescribed fire in Everglades National Park. NPS photo.