Some of the vegetation that burned in the North Fire was 70 years old

North fire fuel ageBob Eisele sent us this map of the North Fire — the “Carmegeddon” fire that trapped scores of vehicles on Interstate 15 in southern California July 17, burning 22 of them. His data points out that much of the vegetation had not burned in a very long time — for southern California, anyway.

Mr. Eisele said:

We all “know” the Cajon Pass burns “all the time”. But it doesn’t all burn all the time. The North fire area last burned in 1945. It takes old fuel, not drought, to make big fires in SoCal. See map attached.

Same holds true for the Lake Fire.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

2 thoughts on “Some of the vegetation that burned in the North Fire was 70 years old”

  1. Mr. Eisele’s observation is not particularly compelling because he ignores data that does not fit a viewpoint he has been promoting for many years – that old-growth chaparral is the leading factor in large fires. The science does not support Mr. Eisele’s perspective.

    For example, Eisele ignores the the fact that most of the the 20,000 acre, 2013 Silver Fire near Banning, California, burned through invasive weeds and young, desert chaparral recovering from the deadly 2006 Esperanza Fire, destroying nearly two dozen homes in the process. Seven-year-old vegetation does not make “old fuel.” The reburn was the result of drought and strong winds, two variables Eisele continually discounts.

    Before depending on fuel age maps, Eisele should check in with local firefighters. The area where the I-15 fire started has had numerous fires of less than 10 acres that were not previously mapped. In addition, the perimeters of fires previous to the 2000’s were only hand drawn maps, often with errors. Portions of the Crowder Fire (1995), Hill Fire (2011), Runway Fire (2006), and Blue Cut Fire (2002) burned portions of the North Fire. There also has been a large disturbance of fuels in the area due to underground pipeline maintenance along the Kinder-Morgan and SoCal Gas pipelines.

    Based upon the large fires of 2003, 2006, 2007, and 2013, all of which burned thousands of acres of relatively young age-class fuels, Eisele’s suggestion that “old fuels” are responsible for large fires is not a supportable hypothesis. Rather, it is an example why science is so important – it helps us answer questions by looking at objective sets of data, not non-random, anecdotal observations subject to bias.

    1. This seems to boil down to whether old-growth chaparral is a problem? Or whether drought and winds are the main variable?

      Ecologically, older chaparral is a big asset, and certainly enough gets burned in the normal course anyway.


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