Comparing prescribed fire activity across the United States

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.)

Video: Introduction to Wildland Fuel Management

American Elk prescribed fire Wind Cave National Park
A firefighter ignites the American Elk prescribed fire in Wind Cave National Park, October 20, 2010. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

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.

California to activate National Guard to help reduce wildfire risk

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.

Priority Landscapes wildfire protection
(Click to see a larger version)

The entire 28-page report about this new initiative can be found here.

Fuels and fire behavior advisory issued for Southern California

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.

[pdf-embedder url=”https://wildfiretoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/12-29-2017_Fuels_and_Fire_Behavior_Advisory.pdf”]

Fuels and fire behavior advisories issued for three areas

 fuels fire advisory

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.

Great basin fuels fire advisory

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Montana North Dakota South Dakota fuels fire advisory

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Washington Oregon fuels fire advisory

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Jim.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Caifornia Fuels and Fire Behavior Advisory

The Southern California Geographic Area Coordination Center has issued a Fuels and Fire Behavior Advisory for the central and southern areas of California due to a heavier than usual grass crop brought on by above average winter rains. Because of the vegetation and climate in Southern California it seems like we hear similar warnings often — heavy rains bring lots of flashy grass fuels, and a dry winter results in low fuel moistures. An average winter can mean typical fire potential, which in this area can still mean large devastating wildfires. But as we often say, the most important factor that affects the number of acres burned is the weather during the fire season.

Below is an excerpt from the Advisory. Following that is the entire document.

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“Due to the heavy winter rains, a significant grass crop has developed across much of California in the recent months. These light, flashy fuels have now cured across most of the southern and central portions of the state, which has led to a significant increase in fire activity across much of the Southern California Geographic Area. Despite the volatility of these grass fires, the heavier fuels are less supportive of fire as moisture levels in the larger diameter materials is near normal for this time of year. In addition, live fuel moisture remains above average in many areas. Therefore, while significant acreage consumption will continue to occur on future fires within the grassy fuel beds, large fires among the heavier fuels are less likely.”

Fuels And Fire Behavior Advisory SoCal

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Ken.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.