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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Cleveland National Forest Completes Hydromulch on Santiago Fire

The U.S. Forest Service completed their $5 million project to treat 1,241 acres with hydromulch in areas burned by the October fire in Orange County in southern California. The hydromulch is a wet mixture of 40% shredded wood and 60% paper with a gum-based tackifier, a sticky substance that helps the mulch material cling to terrain. Single engine air tankers and helicopters applied the green-dyed biodegradable material to help minimize erosion.

5th Fatality in Florida I-4 Smoke/Fog 50+ Vehicle Pileup

A 5th person has passed away as a result of the 50+ vehicle pileup that may have been caused by smoke from an escaped prescribed fire combining with fog on January 9. Smoke from the fire continues to cause lane closures on the Interstate. The Florida Division of Forestry is still mopping up the 380 acre fire which resulted from a prescribed fire conducted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. (see the posts on Jan. 9-10 for more information, here, here, and here)

Witch Creek Fire Was 2nd Costliest Disaster of 2007

The October Witch Creek fire which started near Santa Ysabel in San Diego County California was the second costliest incident in 2007 for insurance companies, causing $1.1 billion in damage. Started by downed power lines during a Santa Ana wind event, the fire burned 197,000 acres and destroyed 1,650 structures. The number one natural disaster for insurance companies was the four-day storm in mid-April that caused $1.3 billion in damages in 19 states.

Forest Fire J!had?

I don’t want to over react to this, but the World Tribune is reporting that on a “terrorist web site”, the writer is calling for “Forest J!had”. The writer is quoted as saying

“summer has begun so do not forget the Forest J!had”

and called on all Muslims in the United States, Europe, Russia and Australia to

“start forest fires.”

The posting mentioned imprisoned Al Qaida terrorist Abu Musab Al-Suri, and went on to say:

“The idea of forest fires is attributed to him….”


“Imagine if, after all the losses caused by such an event, a j!hadist organization were to claim responsibility for the forest fires. You can hardly begin to imagine the level of the fear that would take hold of people in the United States, in Europe, in Russia, and in Australia.”

All of this may be nothing more than one crazed person ranting on the Internet, but we’ll see what, if anything, develops.

(I changed the spelling of the J. word, replacing the “i” with a “!”.)

USFS Employee Convicted of Starting Fire May Be Released From Prison Early

In 2003, Terry Barton, a U.S. Forest Service Fire Prevention Technician, was convicted of starting the 2002 Hayman fire on the front range of Colorado. She was sentenced to 12 years in prison by the state and 6 years by a federal court. In an appeal, the 12 year sentence was thrown out. Since she has already served 5 years, she could be released in a year. But it’s not over yet. There is another hearing scheduled for February 11 when there could be another change related to the state sentence. Barton’s attorneys are arguing that the state judge’s sentencing decision, double the standard sentence, was affected by the fact that he voluntarily evacuated during the fire.

The Hayman fire burned 138,000 acres and 133 homes; 8,000 people were evacuated. Aside from prison, Barton also was ordered to pay $42.2 million in state and federal restitution.

IAWF Looking for Executive Director

After serving as the Executive Director of the International Association of Wildland Fire for three years, I have decided to retire (again) and concentrate on things a retired guy is supposed to spend time on, like traveling, motorcycles, and photography. And wildfire blogs. My last day with the IAWF will be March 31, (but this blog will continue, as always, not affiliated with the IAWF). More information about the job vacancy can be found HERE.

The IAWF is a dynamic organization serving the wildland fire community. It could be a great job for someone with both organization management experience and a fire background. We have managed to double the membership in three years and are doing more to support wildland fire such as offering scholarships , helping to support the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, monitoring wildland fire legislation, issuing position papers, establishing a Wildland Fire Event Calendar, conducting surveys on important issues, increasing the publication frequency of the International Journal of Wildland Fire, and putting on a variety of well-attended conferences.