Friday, July 27, 2012

Fourmile Fire report: Fuel treatments in burn area were ineffective

The forested land within the nearly 6,200 acres burned by the Fourmile Fire in 2010 that had been treated to reduce wildfire risk did not appear to alter the fire's behavior, and, in some cases, burned more intensely than adjacent, untreated land, according to a final report on the Fourmile Fire released Wednesday by the U.S. Forest Service.

That's the language that the AP is distributing, based upon a more complete article in the Daily Camera. Here are some excerpts from the complete article:
In all, about 600 acres of land within the burn area had been treated -- through measures including thinning and removing lower branches of trees -- to mitigate wildfire risk in the seven years leading up to ignition of the Fourmile Fire on Labor Day 2010.

The majority of the fuel treatments were administered by the Colorado State Forest Service, and much of the work took place on private land. About 66 percent of the land burned by the Fourmile Fire is owned by private property owners. The Bureau of Land Management owns 23 percent, Boulder County owns 6 percent and the Forest Service owns 5 percent.

Most of the treatments in the Fourmile burn area were small and narrow -- only two were larger than 20 acres in size -- and that may have contributed to the fact that the fire, which was spotting up to a half-mile in front of the main blaze, appeared to easily breach the treated areas, according to the report.

The added intensity of the burn in some of the treated areas might also have been because, in some cases, the forestry waste from the thinning operations was still piled on the ground. And, in many instances, prescribed burns -- which would clear out the fuels that lay on the surface of the forest floor, including pine needles and small branches -- were not used.

The findings point to the importance of finishing fuel treatments, including disposing the extra waste, and the importance of performing treatments on a large scale.

That tells us a little bit different story.  The piddly, half-assed, namby-bamby "thinning" projects in the "wildland interface" we hear so much about don't work.  Or, as a professional would say:

"Fires under these conditions are a landscape phenomenon and a landscape problem," said Mark Finney, a research forester at the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory in Montana, who worked on the report. "Fires will spread many miles from where they start and they will cover thousands or tens of thousands of acres. If you're going to design fuel treatment programs to try to mitigate that threat, you need to think on that scale."

There is an effective and efficient "fuel treatment program" - Its called logging.

1 comment:

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