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More fire thoughts

September 6 2017 at 6:10 PM
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Ray Brooks  (no login)

Response to Re: Thoughts on past & current Forest Service Fire Policies.

John: Thank you for your well-thought out input. Re your statement about old-growth forests being more fire-resistant, that achievement was the Holy Grail of Forest Service fire policies between 1910 & 1995, when one of the objectives was to replace the very-burnable Lodgepole Pine forests with more fire resistant species such as Douglas Fir & Ponderosa Pine & wetter ecosystem species like Spruce & Alpine Fir.

In 1972, I did a long hike about 10 miles below the Boundary Creek Lauch area on the Middle Fork Salmon. I was thrilled to see Douglas Firs sprouting through the Lodgepole Pines away from the river & Spruce starting to shade out the Lodgepole Pines in wetter areas & near the river.

In late Sept of 1985, I drove the scenic road that goes from Stanley, through Bear Valley & on to Warm Lake & Cascade (The Landmark Stanley Road). A huge fire had recently burned from the mountains east of the Middle Fork, almost all the way to Deadwood Summit. It was burning in places as I drove un-impeded through the edge of the fire & fire-fighters were few & far-between. Finally after about 15 miles of burning forest, near Deadwood Summit, I found one firefighter watching flames slowly backing down a slope towards him 1/4 mile away. I stopped & chatted him up about what had happened. He explained that all the fire-crews had been disbanded at the end of summer & the local National Forest only had a couple of dozen fire-fighters available. They hadn't had a chance of stopping the fire. Between that fire & later ones, my dreams of a more fire-retardant ecosystem on the upper Middle Fork Salmon were all burned up.

I'll agree that a lot of our current smoke is not coming from fires in Wilderness areas, but the current largest fire in Idaho is the Highline Fire: (70,938 acres) in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness & there are various other fires churning out smoke in that wilderness & the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness. I am distressed that most all of the Middle Fork Salmon & Main Salmon River canyons have burned since 2000 in a too-long series of huge unfought fires.

And lastly, although I remember a lot of facts about the 1910 Big Burn that triggered the Forest Service No Burn policy, I visited Wikipedia to supplement my memory this morning. I regret to inform fellow Wikipedia fans that Wiki neglected mentioning the Big Burn combined hundereds of small fires, some of which had been burning for weeks, when a "wind event" hit the area. The wind & the ensuing fatalities were over in two days, but the fires lasted all summer. Also the Big Burn was the 3rd largest forest fire in U.S. history, not the largest.

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