Bark Beetle and Wildfire in the Sierra Nevada

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Bark Beetle and Wildfire in the Sierra Nevada

Post by rightstar76 » Mon Aug 27, 2018 11:56 am

I never thought a fire could burn so close to the Minarets. This statement from Sierra National Forest and chart caught my eye:
Standing dead trees have been recently observed to burn out rapidly and fall. When logs on slopes burn out and break apart and roll downhill they not only can spread the fire but can hit firefighters. As a result firefighters have to be extra cautious in areas with high tree mortality. More hazardous conditions result in it taking longer to control fires. ... 7436103680 ... 555-0.jpeg

In my opinion, I think there needs to be thinning and tree removal on a scale that hasn't happened for the last sixty years.

Last edited by rightstar76 on Wed Aug 14, 2019 2:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Bark Beetle and Wildfire in the Sierra Nevada

Post by balzaccom » Mon Aug 27, 2018 1:02 pm

I just spent a nice chunk of change to remove a 180 foot tall dead Ponderosa pine from near my cabin. The bark beetles finally got her this summer. And there are other trees that also show damage. This is not over by a long shot. And yes, we need to do a better job of managing. Since the big Yellowstone fires of thirty years ago, many of the national parks are actively burning understory and dead trees to reduce fire danger. But national forests have fallen far behind this--mainly because of funding issues.

CSERC recently ran a story in their newsletter about slash removal--some groups would like any and all slash piles to be burned in the forest to return the nutrients to the environment. CSERC points out that dead organic material is not scarce in the Sierra right now, and that burning in place releases massive amounts of smoke and hydrocarbons into the air. They suggest hauling the slash to powerplants where it can be burned much more cleanly and generate electricity at the same time.

There are no easy solutions to complicated problems.

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Re: Bark Beetle and Wildfire in the Sierra Nevada

Post by dave54 » Mon Aug 27, 2018 3:07 pm

Falling snags is one of the leading causes of firefighter deaths. With the LODD of Brian Hughes this year (Arrowhead Hotshots, NPS -SEKI) there is talk in firefighting community of a tactical paradigm shift of withdrawing from snag patches completely. This will probably be discussed over the winter at annual meetings and trainings. Will not be well received by the public who sacrifice even more forest rather than risk another death in a snag patch.

The bark beetle problem is a combination of long drought combined with over dense forests. Pines have a natural defense mechanism against bug attacks and can normally fed off an attack under normal conditions. The one-two punch of density and drought was too much much.
There is little to no market value in the dead trees, so removing them will cost the taxpayer money, not make money.
The time to act was decades ago, managing the forest to keep such attacks from becoming this severe. Finger pointing to the past will not solve the problem now.
Going forward, the forests cannot be burned into better structure and composition. That door is closed. Mechanical removal must be part of the solution or the whole attempt fails. As it is now, the biggest barrier to more control burning is the Clean Air Act, followed by NEPA and other environmental laws. The Forest Service is control burning about as much as they can under existing laws and regulatory framework. A few years back Lassen NF calculated that the intersection of weather conditions suitable for burning and the number of allowable burn days under AQMD regulations gave an average of 18 days per year they could safely and effectively burn.

Making control burning exempt from Air Quality regulations is not a solution -- that only makes it legal to fill the air with smoke.
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