Ice storms in Missouri increase fuel by a factor of ten

The ice storms that swept through parts of Missouri and Oklahoma this winter damaged trees to the point where now the fallen trees and broken branches have, in some places, increased the fuel load from 3 tons per acre to over 30 tons per acre.

From the Joplin Globe:

……. “That’s because repeated ice storms have put more fuel on the ground in timbered areas than at any time in recent memory, officials say. The ground is crisscrossed with limbs and downed trees that not only provide fuel, but limit access and mobility for firefighters.

Andy Nimmo, chief of the Redings Mill Fire Protection District, experienced what the future could hold on March 2, when a small fire broke out on Reinmiller Road, southeast of Joplin. It became a large wildfire in a matter of seconds.

“We got our first glimpse of the danger then,” Nimmo said. “Fifty mile per hour winds in a heavily timbered area with lots of fuel on the ground made it 10 times more difficult to fight. We had to drop back and punt. We had to go to the nearest road we had access to to stop it.”

Duane Parker, a fire-protection consultant with Southwest Missouri Resource Conservation and Development, said a wooded area normally has 3 tons of fuel from leaves and fallen limbs per acre.

The average now is 30 to 34 tons per acre because of ice storms in 2007, and that does not include “hangers,” those limbs that are broken but still hanging in trees, he said.

Parker predicted the threat of serious fires this spring will be high in Southwest Missouri.”

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