At least they’re paid in sunsets

Wildland firefighters

Burning piles sunset Black Hills National Forest
Burning piles at sunset on the Black Hills National Forest. Photo by Josh Hoffmann.

Federal employees who fight fires for a living are grossly underpaid. That fact may have led to the old saying that they are “paid in sunsets.” Wildland firefighters usually battle fires in very remote areas and have opportunities to see sunsets from a wide variety of vantage points that are rarely visited by humans. When they see the sunset, they may have dragged themselves out of a sleeping bag on the ground 14 hours earlier and are dog-tired, dirty, sweaty, thirsty, and *hangry. But if the clouds, smoke, landscape, and sun all cooperate at the right time, they may take a minute to drink some of the last (warm) water they still have while enjoying and saving a mental snapshot of a red sunset enhanced by smoke. And then someone yells “Bump Up,” and they grab their tool again — with that image lingering in their mind. Tomorrow’s shift will be better.

Snow this time of the year can create excellent opportunities for land managers to burn debris piles left over from fuel reduction, thinning, or timber harvesting operations. The snow reduces the chances of the fire creeping out into dry vegetation, and when backs are turned igniting a wildfire.

Like many other parks and forests, the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota and Wyoming has been burning piles in recent days. In their case, near Sheridan Lake, Deadwood South Dakota, and 10 miles south-southeast of Sundance, Wyoming.

Let’s be careful out there.


*Hangry: bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger.

DOI reports that they exceeded fuel treatment goals in FY 2019

Reduced wildfire risks on 1.4 million acres

Prescribed fire at Big Cypress National Preserve
Prescribed fire at Big Cypress National Preserve. NPS image.

This Department of the Interior announced it had doubled and nearly tripled targets set by President Donald Trump for vegetation treatments to reduce wildfire risk in Fiscal Year 2019, marking the largest fuel load reduction in a decade, according to information from the DOI. The announcement came as the four land management agencies with wildland fire programs in the Department — the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — reported their end-of-year accomplishments.

In December 2018, the President issued Executive Order 13855, directing the DOI and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to promote active management of America’s forests and rangelands to reduce wildfire risk with specific targets for actions.

The DOI was required to:

  • Treat 750,000 acres public lands to reduce fuel loads;
  • Treat 500,000 acres of public lands to protect water quality and mitigate severe flooding and erosion risks arising from forest fires; and
  • Reduce vegetation through forest health treatments by offering for sale 600 million board feet of timber from public lands.

Working toward those goals, the DOI announcement stated that they:

  • Reduced fuel loads on more than 1.4 million acres of DOI-administered lands, covering nearly two times more acres than required under the Executive Order;
  • Protected water quality on more than 1.4 million acres of DOI administered lands, nearly three times the acres required; and
  • Planned for harvest or offered for sale more than 750 million board feet of timber to reduce vegetation giving rise to wildfire conditions, exceeding the target by 25 percent.

Santa Fe National Forest fuels & restoration videos, parts 11 and 12

fuel management fire forest wildfire
Screenshot from Part 12 of the Santa Fe NF series of videos on fuel management.

Here are parts 11 and 12 in the series of 12 videos produced by the Santa Fe National Forest on the topic of fuel management and forest restoration.

Fuel Management is defined as:

An act or practice of controlling flammability and reducing resistance to control of wildland fuels [vegetation] through mechanical, chemical, biological, or manual means, or by fire, in support of land management objectives.

Forest Restoration:

Actions to re-instate ecological processes, which accelerate recovery of forest structure, ecological functioning and biodiversity levels towards those typical of climax forest, i.e. the end-stage of natural forest succession.


Part 11, Protecting Cultural Sites


Part 12, If We Do Nothing

Other videos in the series, published weekly, can be seen here. The final video will appear October 20, 2019.

Santa Fe National Forest fuels & restoration videos, parts 9 and 10

fuel management fire forest wildlife
Screenshot from Part 9 of the Santa Fe NF series of videos on fuel management.

Here are parts nine and ten in the series of 12 videos produced by the Santa Fe National Forest on the topic of fuel management and forest restoration.

Fuel Management is defined as:

An act or practice of controlling flammability and reducing resistance to control of wildland fuels [vegetation] through mechanical, chemical, biological, or manual means, or by fire, in support of land management objectives.

Forest Restoration:

Actions to re-instate ecological processes, which accelerate recovery of forest structure, ecological functioning and biodiversity levels towards those typical of climax forest, i.e. the end-stage of natural forest succession.


Part 9, Wildfire and Wildlife


Part 10, Fire Legacy of the Jemez People

Other videos in the series, published weekly, can be seen here. The final video will appear on October 20, 2019.

Santa Fe National Forest fuels & restoration videos, parts 7 and 8

fuel management fire forest smoke
Screenshot from Part 7 of the Santa Fe NF series of videos on fuel management.

Here are parts seven and eight in the series of 12 videos produced by the Santa Fe National Forest on the topic of fuel management and forest restoration.

Fuel Management is defined as:

An act or practice of controlling flammability and reducing resistance to control of wildland fuels [vegetation] through mechanical, chemical, biological, or manual means, or by fire, in support of land management objectives.

Forest Restoration:

Actions to re-instate ecological processes, which accelerate recovery of forest structure, ecological functioning and biodiversity levels towards those typical of climax forest, i.e. the end-stage of natural forest succession.


Part 7, Smoke Impacts


Part 8, Wildfire and Watersheds

Other videos in the series, published weekly, can be seen here. The final video will appear on October 20, 2019.

Santa Fe National Forest fuels & restoration videos, parts 5 and 6

fuel management fire forest
Screenshot from Part 5 of the Santa Fe NF series of videos on fuel management.

Here are parts five and six in the series of 12 videos produced by the Santa Fe National Forest on the topic of fuel management and forest restoration.

Fuel Management is defined as:

An act or practice of controlling flammability and reducing resistance to control of wildland fuels [vegetation] through mechanical, chemical, biological, or manual means, or by fire, in support of land management objectives.

Forest Restoration:

Actions to re-instate ecological processes, which accelerate recovery of forest structure, ecological functioning and biodiversity levels towards those typical of climax forest, i.e. the end-stage of natural forest succession.


Part 5, How We Fix This


Part 6, Case Study The Venado Fire

Other videos in the series, published weekly, can be seen here. The final video will appear on October 20, 2019.