Editor’s note: This post was authored and submitted by Robin Stanley. Thanks Robin!
Four fire fighters die, three in Twisp. Forty-five homes burned in Kamiah Idaho. This week literally hundreds of homes destroyed across the northwest. Family’s lives have been ruined by catastrophic wild fires that may have been prevented or at least better managed had the right preliminary precautions been taken. Here I go again. “Decrease the amount of fuel.”
I am not a fire expert and in truth I have only fought one major forest fire in my life. But everything I have experience and read have lead back to the same basic fundamentals. The best technology we have today still addresses only two of the basic elements of fire; heat and fuel source. We still dump water and fire retardants on fire to eliminate heat and secondly to make less fuel source available. We cannot prevent catastrophic fires by continually dumping water in the woods. But we can manage our forests to decrease the intensity of the fires and make them more manageable if a fire occurs.
When a fire is burning, they attempt to get the fire to the ground by breaking up the canopy so the fires cannot crown. Wouldn’t it make good sense to treat a forest by thinning the trees to discourage “crowning” BEFORE a fire occurs rather than waiting until it starts to burn?
After the fire goes to the ground, fire fighters dig trenches with a Pulaski or they use a dozer to cut a wide swath to “break up” the ground fuel source. Then they eliminate as much ground fuel as possible.
Instead of waiting to build fire lines and trenches until after a fire is burning and approaching our communities, wouldn’t it make good sense to simply eliminate, in advance, the unnecessary undergrowth that serves as fuel for the fires?
Yup!! We literally go in and log to break up the canopy, we thin the forests to remove dead and diseased trees as a fuel sources, and we address the ground fuel, the brush and slash that needs to be removed. Then when a fire does come, it cannot “canopy” but instead stays on the ground and with little or no fuel on the ground because it has been removed, the fire is much easier to contain. Are not both the Fire Wise and the WUI projects attempting to remove the fuel from out neighborhoods?
If anyone has a better suggestion on how to protect our communities from fire, I am anxious to hear them.
But there is a big problem with this plan. Too often the enviros object to “logging” so they end up killing the entire project. Or the plans become so reduced they become ineffective at really addressing the fire fuel problem.
So here is a very interesting thought. What if there was a logging/thinning projected proposed and a group sued to stop the logging project and won in court? And what if a house burned that may not have burned had the logging and thinning occurred that had been proposed? Can those who successfully killed a project that may have prevented a small fire from becoming a catastrophic fire, be sued for damages because their actions thwarted effort to eliminate or reduce the potential fire fuel? Can a group that stops the Forest Service from taking measures to protect our communities from catastrophic fire be sued by those who are damaged if a fire occurs? HUMMMMM! Something to ponder. Maybe it is time that people are held accountable for their actions.