Forest managers and wildland firefighters will often use the word “fuels.” What are fuels? It’s both the living and dead vegetation in a forest that can potentially burn in a wildfire. David Peterson, biologist for the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, explains in this 80-second video how reducing fuels helps to reduce the intensity of wildfires.
Trying to compare the acres treated with prescribed fire in California and Florida is like comparing apples and penguins. In addition to California’s significant regulatory issues, the vegetation there is more explosive (in some areas), the terrain complicates ignition, and the road systems and access can sometimes be challenging. By comparison Florida is flat, access is usually much easier, and the fuels are not as difficult for an experienced prescribed fire crew to safely ignite.
But with the increased wildfire activity in recent decades and pressure from many sources to treat hazardous fuels and rake the forests, more attention is being focused on prescribed fire as one way to mitigate the effects of climate change. However the number of acres treated on federal lands is directly related to the funds appropriated for that purpose. And those dollars have been relatively flat for a number of years.
Climate Central put together some interesting graphics. (Click on the images twice to see larger versions and more tweets in the thread.)
Prescribed burns reduce wildfire risks — but the U.S. spends little on them. The Southeast is the leader in managing land this way while the West lags badly behind, fueling deadly infernos.@ClimateCentral research collaboration with @uidaho’s @pyrogeog: https://t.co/PKCEdKaUDO pic.twitter.com/stK2zR6jXQ
— John Upton (@johnupton) May 29, 2019
When land managers talk about “fuel management”, not everyone knows what they mean. This video can help clarify the term.
It was produced by Northern Arizona University, Wildland Fire Education and Training Collaborative, Joint Fire Science Program, and Southwest Fire Science Consortium.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has put together a list of 35 projects around the state where they intend to reduce the wildfire risk for residents. This follows multiple large fire disasters in 2017 and 2018 that killed over 100 people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes. In many areas those not directly affected by the flames were exposed to hazardous levels of smoke for days or weeks at a time.
The State will establish incident bases in proximity to vulnerable communities and coordinate fuels treatment operations from those facilities utilizing the Incident Command System. The Governor will activate the National Guard to help complete the work.
The projects, identified and planned at the local level, are intended to reduce the public safety risk for over 200 communities. Examples of work to be done include removal of hazardous dead trees, vegetation clearing, creation of fuel breaks and community defensible spaces, and establishment of ingress and egress corridors. CAL FIRE believes these projects can be implemented immediately if their recommendations are taken to enable the work.
Recognizing that entry level employees in California are not highly compensated, and often have challenges finding affordable housing in areas where they work, the state will provide additional government housing for seasonal state employees working on forest management and fuels reduction.
In addition to large-scale fuel reduction projects near communities, CAL FIRE understands that residents have to also do their part to reduce the flammable material in their home ignition zone within 100 feet of structures, and especially immediately adjacent — within 5 feet.
Details on the projects can be found online at http://calfire.ca.gov/fire_prevention/downloads/FuelReductionProjectList.pdf. CAL FIRE expects to keep the list updated.
The lack of precipitation this fall, along with a prolonged period of warm, dry, and occasional windy weather has caused fuels to be extremely dry across portions of Southern and Central California.
Welcome to what may become the new normal — for a Fuels and Fire Behavior Advisory to be issued for an area in the Western United States hours before New Years Eve. The Predictive Services office in the Southern California Geographic Coordination Center issued one on Friday for the following areas:
- Southern Sierra
- Central Coast Interio
- Central Coast
- South Coast
- Western Mountain
- Eastern Mountain, and,
- Southern Mountains
A similar Advisory that was issued two weeks ago reached its expiration date so it was reupped for another 14 days.
Three areas have issued Fuels and Fire Behavior Advisories that are currently in effect. The advisories are valid for 14 days from the date of issuance.
The documents do not indicate which person, group, or office came up with the information. One of them has the “Predictive Services” logo, but there are many such offices with multiple employees. The others provide no clue how, where, or by whom they originated.
It has been our position that a technical document that relies on scientific data and expertise gained through years of experience, and which recommends specific action be taken, should be signed. Someone needs to have their name(s) attached. Was it put together by an intern, or someone with 35 years of experience? Be brave and convince us that we should take the advice to take action seriously.
Below are screen grabs of the top sections of each document. The entire documents can be seen here: Great Basin, part of the Northern Rockies Geographic Area, and Eastern Washington and Eastern Oregon.
To see larger versions of the images below, widen your browser, hold your mobile device horizontally, or click on the images.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Jim.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.