Rim Fire: What's Next (ecologically)?

Search
Go

Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Messages 101 - 120 of total 126 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Oct 23, 2013 - 11:58am PT
Popular myths and misconceptions about the ecology of fire and dead trees in western U.S. conifer forests are
numerous, and are strongly at odds with the recent scientific evidence, which indicates the following about
these forest ecosystems:


The only effective way to protect homes from wildland fire is to reduce the combustibility of the homes
themselves, and reduce brush and very small trees within 100 feet of the homes. Commercial thinning
projects that remove mature trees hundreds of yards – and often several miles – from the nearest home do
not protect homes, and often put homes at greater risk by diverting scarce resources away from true home
protection, by creating a false sense of security, and by removing large, fire-resistant trees and generating
combustible logging “slash debris”, which increases potential fire severity. Currently, less than 3% of U.S.
Forest Service “fuels reduction” projects are near homes.


Patches of high-intensity fire (where most or all trees are killed) support the highest levels of native
biodiversity of any forest type in western U.S. conifer forests, including many rare and imperiled species that
live only in high-intensity patches.
Even Spotted Owls depend upon significant patches of high-intensity fire
in their territories in order to maintain habitat for their small mammal prey base. These areas are ecological
treasures.


Current fires are mostly low- and moderate-intensity, and high-intensity fire comprises a relatively small
proportion of the total area burned. Areas that have not burned in a long time are not burning more
intensely.



Vigorous natural regeneration of conifer seedlings occurs after high-intensity fire. Numerous large trees also
survive, and their growth tends to increase substantially after the fire, which converts woody material on the
forest floor into highly usable nutrients for tree growth. By contrast, after very long absence of these fires,
forests can lose so much of their productivity that, ultimately, sites lose the ability to support forest at all.


There is far less fire now than there was historically. There is also less high-intensity fire now than there
was prior to fire suppression policies.


Fires are not becoming more intense.
The Myth of
“Catastrophic” Wildfire

DMT
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
Oct 23, 2013 - 12:02pm PT
Areas that have not burned in a long time are not burning more
intensely.






^^^^^^^^^^^ That single comment makes that report ABSOLUTELY horse nuggets..

The Granite mountain IHC died this year because of the MOST INTENSE BURNING ever seen there due to 50 yrs of no fires in that area and a historically HIGH fuel load.



Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Oct 23, 2013 - 12:09pm PT
Baby, meet the bathwater.

DMT
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
Oct 23, 2013 - 12:21pm PT
Thee ARE some sections in that report that are correct Dingus, but THAT wasnt one of them.. Ive been there and ive seen first hand.

Heres an experiment you can easily do for yourself. Take a pile of weeds and burn them on one spot on your lawn. Then pile up weeds sticks and a chunk or two of wood, burn that and see which burns yur lawn more. I got a five spot on the one with sticks and such.
Ain't no flatlander

climber
Oct 23, 2013 - 12:27pm PT
DMT, that isn't a study. It's an opinion piece using cherry-picked data to support his job. Read it with a big grain of salt.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
Oct 23, 2013 - 12:28pm PT
werd^^^^^


Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Oct 23, 2013 - 12:36pm PT
Aintnoflatlander that reads like an opinion as well.

I've been following the Healthy Forest Sale initiative since it was called the Quincy Library Group. As you know the Quincy Library Group was a private enterprise formed by industry insiders composed of logging company executives and senior forest service managers for the purpose of revitalizing the LOGGING industry, starting in Plumas Nationl Forest. They formulated a proposal to log public lands more aggressively by trading 'forest clearing' for mature logs. After public rejection it was repackaged as the Bush Healthy Forest Initiative. An example of one of their goals - the revocation of the Clinton-era removal of forest sale road networks, as JOB ONE of the healthy forest initiative, lol. More roads equal healthier forest... lol lol. So long as you equate to MORE LOGGING = HEALTHIER FOREST. I do not subscribe to this view.

I don't buy the conventional salesman elevator speech that fires are bad. Its the same ole same ole from the same ole salesmen, in support of their best customers. Those customers don't own the trees though, and neither do the forest sale managers.

DMT
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
Oct 23, 2013 - 12:41pm PT
Dingus, MANY fires each year are LET BURN fires. Those that are in areas more suited to natural behavoir like higher altitudes where fuel loads are not that different from 50 yrs ago, or areas of thick mono cultured stands like those in AK where openings are badly needed. Or low resource value burns like those in many spots of NEvada. Where ranchers used to burn it off instead. But areas like the Rim fire for instance did not meet any of the above. Especially considering the major water supply there.

Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Oct 23, 2013 - 12:45pm PT
Know what?


Sonora is going to burn in a major fire. So is Auburn. So is Placerville. It will be like San Diego county all over again, and it WILL happen.

It has nothing to do with fuel loads and has everything to do with people building homes in a fire place.

I have many friends that live and work in those areas. Quietly, over a beer, we can discuss the fact that Sonora with 2,000 people, is quite different from Sonora-Area with 20,000 homes. This time the fire started outside the suburban area... what happens when lightning strikes directly in the heart of it? It will burn, that's what.

Placerville area is a goddamn disaster waiting to happen.

The things that rile people the most, burning homes, have almost nothing to do with forest fuel loads.

DMT
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
Oct 23, 2013 - 02:13pm PT
Granted homes arent part of the ecology of wildfire itself, but it very much is in suppression efforts. As watersheds are as well.

Take for instance a proposed cut long ago on the Toiyabe, in upper clear creek canyon with one road as access, and many new homes on steep timbered hills. We wanted to create a cut that would also act as a shaded fuel break and at the same time take care of the misstle-toe spread there. The cut got nixed, and its still a fire disaster waiting to burn as it hasnt in 70 years. And on cue, the forest has begun to self thin through insect and disease there having reached a stocking zone of immanent mortality, where 70% of our forest land is now..


edit: And the zone of immanent morality is the point that a stand reaches where it will begin to self thin through inseact / disease or wildfire if not treated artificially. That zone is figured by the stand density index , ie How many stems per acre there are.
michaeld

Sport climber
Sacramento
Oct 23, 2013 - 03:13pm PT
We've done such a "good job" stopping forest fires, that there has been so much long lasting growth, that now since there are no roots or anything, I fear tons of mud slides, like what happened in CO this year.

And did I mention, I predict and extremely wet winter to come?
the albatross

Gym climber
Flagstaff
Oct 23, 2013 - 03:30pm PT
DMT that was an interesting link you posted on the previous page, in regards to forest management.

Here is a link to a contrasting view, that of a rather popular forestry professor from Northern Arizona:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_t6uovjoWw
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
Oct 23, 2013 - 03:54pm PT
Dr Covington is spot on. We either treat our forests artificially or insect disease and fire will.. Thinning and burning. The best solution available NOW. Heck,, bring back the CCC and gets some folks to work at the same time.
klk

Trad climber
cali
Oct 23, 2013 - 07:00pm PT
t has nothing to do with fuel loads and has everything to do with people building homes in a fire place.

fireplaces don't burn without a fuel load. if they did, my life would be a whole lot easier.

virtually all of populated california is built in fire regimes. the parts that aren't are built in flood regimes. and most of the pop also lives over earthquake faults. the question is what to do about it.

dmt, i'm not sure what you and ron have goin, but im guessing it comes partly from one of the other threads that i dont read. i'm not clicking the climate science thread.

i'm slammed and have to go read files, but will come back later and talk about why hansen is all over the pop media and why he strikes so many folks (not just timber industry apologists) as problematic.

of the popular media coverage, hcn has the best piece on the fire science warsof those i've seen:

ttp://www.hcn.org/issues/44.16/fire-scientists-fight-over-what-western-forests-should-look-like

the albatross

Gym climber
Flagstaff
Oct 23, 2013 - 08:49pm PT
Here is a link to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation website. This organization works to improve big game habitat in northern Arizona and across the West, using both prescribed fire and "thinning".

http://www.rmef.org/Conservation/HowWeConserve/HabitatStewardship.aspx

From the website:
"Habitat Enhancement

Fire suppression, invasive weeds, conifer encroachment and drought all degrade elk habitat. Some, like drought, are just nature’s way. Others, like fire suppression and weeds, are a direct result of human actions. Using tools such as prescribed burning, thinning, fertilization, seeding, water developments, noxious weed treatments and fencing, we are reversing the effects of these impacts on elk country."

the albatross

Gym climber
Flagstaff
Oct 23, 2013 - 08:59pm PT
Ron Anderson wrote:

"We either treat our forests artificially or insect disease and fire will.. Thinning and burning. The best solution available NOW. Heck,, bring back the CCC and gets some folks to work at the same time."

In some crazy dream I hear,
Land Managers announce: "Free firewood, just upwind of (insert town name). Grab a truckload, (just leave those marked trees). Help reduce local fire danger by heating your home. Take care of our lands!"
klk

Trad climber
cali
Nov 26, 2013 - 08:41am PT
one of the contractors for baer died on friday. hauling hay for the mulching ops. reports suggest that his brakes failed-- he went off the cottonwood bridge.

that's a deep canyon-- not sure if they have the truck out yet. his names hasn't been released as of this morning.

http://www.uniondemocrat.com/News/Local-News/Driver-killed-in-Rim-Fire-truck-accident

HighTraverse

Trad climber
Bay Area
Nov 26, 2013 - 09:54am PT
I wonder how many of you have actually toured the Rim Fire area?
I did two weeks ago returning from Fall Highball at Bishop.
Besides stopping at a couple of places on Tioga Rd and several places along 120 outside the park, I drove to Hetch Hetchy.
What I saw was illuminating but not surprising.
Earlier, someone mentioned that the burns were patchwork. This is indeed true. Very few areas that I saw were devastated.
Most of the devastation was in
1- dense stands of IMMATURE fir and pine with thick new growth. All trees appeared scorched and "dead" with zero green vegetation. These areas, some as big as dozens of acres had obviously been clear cut some decades ago. Possibly for logging, possibly for pasture.
Directly across the road from some of these devastated areas, in diverse forest, the fire had burned but left many trees with vegetation. It had clearly run along the ground, mostly without getting into the tree crowns.
2- thick chaparral. This is what you see when you look down the canyon from Rim Overlook.

In Yosemite:
Along Tioga road, there was extensive burning up to the road but very few devastated spots.
There are about 1/2 dozen places where the fire spotted across 120 but had in all cases been held to less than an acre.
Yosemite has been using controlled burns to create shaded fuel breaks along Big Oak Flat road. These areas had significant burning behind them where there had been no clearance, but the fire had only infrequently spotted across the road.

In burned areas where there was a mixture of tree/shrub/chaparral types there was spotty burning.

Along the road to Hetch Hetchy, Mather Camp and Evergreen Lodge had both been surrounded by the fire.
Mather Camp which had very little prior shaded fuel break protection was intact. It must have taken a massive effort to save it.

Evergreen Lodge was a much more interesting example. The fire had burned right up to the lodge cabins. There were slightly charred trees right along the road and all around the cabins. Clearly the fire had gotten very close. However, there was a prior shaded fuel break area all around the cabins and lodge proper. The fire had been stopped at the edges of the fuel break. This was a compelling example of defensible space. I'm sure there were plenty of fire crews to stop the fire but they had a great advantage.

Closer to Hetch Hetchy there were still crews mending the downed phone and power lines. I'd estimate that from my car window I saw nearly 3 remaining miles of downed lines. There was a large portable generator on the center of the dam running the control systems.
The fire had "spotted" all over the canyon, both below the dam and on the high country above the river and reservoir. There were small, isolated areas of "black sticks only" devastation but large areas of only singed or even untouched forest and chaparral.

My takeaways:
1 - defensible space, especially shaded fuel breaks are very effective. Evergreen Lodge, Big Oak Flat Road.
2- mixed mature forests don't get devastated
3 - It takes a really hot fire to burn chaparral to the ground. Below the Rim Of the World overlook.
4 - Large "islands" are left largely untouched. Everywhere except Rim Of The World canyon.

These are all points made by CalFire and professional foresters. Borne out by the evidence.

Unfortunately, I'm unable to upload pics for some reason. Will add them when I can.
Strider

Trad climber
ಠ_ಠ
Nov 26, 2013 - 01:35pm PT
Hmmmm... Interesting views and opinions on this thread.

I live in almost the center of the Rim fire scar and it has been an interesting journey. A few observations...

They are now doing aerial drops of hay and seed mulch along Cherry Lake rd / Mather rd. The guy who died as mentioned just above was on the bridge of the Clavey River, the trail head for Gods Bath. They have also been spraying seed mulch from trucks all over the place and especially along Hwy 120 in order to promote top-soil production and as much growth as possible. If we have a mild winter (like the past 2 years) this could have a tremendous effect in keeping flooding and erosion in check. If however we have a real winter then most of that will wash away and we will see what happens.

They have completed hazard tree cutting but contrary to what you may hear or see no (or at least VERY FEW) trees will be removed from the Forest Service land until an EIS is completed early next year. The logging trucks you see are mainly from National Park land (different rules) or private land owners getting ahead of the glut of cheap timber. It is estimated by the Forest Service that once logging begins it will continue for roughly 2 years. That logging activity will dramatically change the nature of driving in the area I suspect. Also, the Forest Service is rethinking how to re-plant / re-forest the burned areas, having learned plenty of lessons from the Penny Pines program of yesteryear.

I am particularly interested in replying to HighTraverse's comments. I am very interested in learning where you came about some of your information because my experience directly contradicts some/much of what you say. I have lived on Evergreen rd for ~10 years now, have logged thousands of road miles on the vast network of dirt roads that stretch East-West from Groveland to Yosemite, North-South from the Merced River to the Stanislaus River and have witnessed the logging, thinning and prescribed fires first hand.

1- dense stands of IMMATURE fir and pine with thick new growth. All trees appeared scorched and "dead" with zero green vegetation. These areas, some as big as dozens of acres had obviously been clear cut some decades ago. Possibly for logging, possibly for pasture.

I am not sure why/where it is obvious there was clear cutting decades ago because my experience in talking with local loggers is that this area (and especially any area you could have seen from the road) has never been clear cut. Logging and thinning has been an active part of this forest for decades however clear cutting has not. Mature trees of all varieties (Lodgepole, Sugar Pine, Oak, Cedar, Fir, etc...) are still prevalent and still alive in this whole forest district.

Directly across the road from some of these devastated areas, in diverse forest, the fire had burned but left many trees with vegetation. It had clearly run along the ground, mostly without getting into the tree crowns.

I am fairly certain I know the exact location you refer to, the last mile before you reach Evergreen Lodge. The West side of the road is devastated and the East side is still there. This has nothing to do with "clear cutting" and everything to do with thinning activities that occurred in 2009/2010. The east side of Evergreen road was thinned and ground fuel was removed. Many people decried this activity and called it "clear cutting" and destruction of the forest. In my opinion it was a blessing. This thinning activity occurred this year on Bear Mountain and Ascension mountain as well as prescribed burns this Spring. The roads are closed but from what I can see from Evergreen rd, this is true.

Mather Camp which had very little prior shaded fuel break protection was intact. It must have taken a massive effort to save it.

Camp Mather has an extensive border of shaded fuel brake. It is called forest roads 1S32, 1S32A, Evergreen rd and Camp Mather's old septic field and Mud Lake. There are also bi-annual (the weeks before Memorial Day and after Labor Day) cleaning events when crews come up from SF to remove and reduce ground fuel. Camp Mather was also saved because the Incident Command at the Miller Ranch was evacuated and moved to Camp Mather. They were also the beneficiary of at least (1) DC-10 drop along the approaching edge of the fire. Camp Mather lost no structures and suffered an absolute minimum of infrastructure loss.

Evergreen Lodge was a much more interesting example. The fire had burned right up to the lodge cabins. There were slightly charred trees right along the road and all around the cabins. Clearly the fire had gotten very close. However, there was a prior shaded fuel break area all around the cabins and lodge proper. The fire had been stopped at the edges of the fuel break. This was a compelling example of defensible space. I'm sure there were plenty of fire crews to stop the fire but they had a great advantage.

This certainly is an example of the importance of defensible space but compared to what Camp Mather had with their road breaks, it laughable. The fire break around the Lodge is 6ft wide and 6 ft high. The reason the Lodge still exists is because of the ~250 fire fighters (as was described to me by a few who were here) who were on property and placed a hose line around the property and initiated back-burns along the edge of the property to keep the intense fire away from the Lodge.

My takeaways:
1 - defensible space, especially shaded fuel breaks are very effective. Evergreen Lodge, Big Oak Flat Road.
2- mixed mature forests don't get devastated
3 - It takes a really hot fire to burn chaparral to the ground. Below the Rim Of the World overlook.
4 - Large "islands" are left largely untouched. Everywhere except Rim Of The World canyon.

1- Yes, defensible space is effective and I would add Camp Mather, Peach Growers, Dimond O campground and innumerable other examples. However I could also add innumerable other examples where defensible space did little to nothing to stop the fire. And Big Oak Flat Rd, aka Hwy 120 into the park had no better fuel breaks than anywhere else. The intensity of the fire there was much less due to an intensive effort to slow/stop the fire long the park edge to save the Sequoias and keep it from the park where fire suppression is a very different game with different rules.
2- I would say forests which are properly managed (young or old) are less likely to get devastated.
4- Large islands are left untouched, even in the Tuolumne River Canyon and Jawbone Ridge, where the fire started. What may look like devastation is not, it looked like that before.

Finally, I will fully admit these comments and opinions are not backed by science or research. They are back by my experience living where I do and watching and living in the forest itself. I have hundreds if not thousands of pictures of much of the Rim Fire burn area from pre-fire time because I have explored much of it that is on NF land. And honestly, much of what I have said and contrary view of others can all be refuted with plenty of counter examples on both sides. The fact is a fire of this size and intensity will do what it wants. Example: Berkeley Camp could be made an example of having a poor fire break but I have been there and their fire break was no less than that of Evergreen, Mather, Peach Growers, etc... You could easily switch the outcomes of these properties. A fire like this I would equate to a tsunami with High and Low spots. If you are in the path of a high spot, pray to god but call the fire fighters and get out of the way.

-n

ps. Sorry HighTraverse, nothing personal. I just felt your post was too "party line" with no specific/personal knowledge of the area. I may very well be mistaken and apologize if I am.
Strider

Trad climber
ಠ_ಠ
Nov 26, 2013 - 01:56pm PT
Here are some good examples of the "islands" or burned vs. un-burned areas that HighTraverse mentioned.

This is Pilot Ridge and Pilot Peak (East-ish). At the upper left you can see the brown/burned areas as they crept along the Ridge toward the Peak at the upper center.




This is just left (North-East-ish) of the last picture, over Highway 120, Buck Meadows, toward Cherry Lake and the High County.



Pictures taken yesterday evening from Smith Station Peak Fire Lookout.

-n
Messages 101 - 120 of total 126 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
 
Our Guidebooks
Check 'em out!
SuperTopo Guidebooks


Try a free sample topo!

 
SuperTopo on the Web

Review Categories
Recent Trip Report and Articles
Recent Route Beta
Recent Gear Reviews