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USDA alert no fire allowed?

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Re: USDA alert no fire allowed?

Postby Ken M » Fri Jul 19, 2013 4:44 pm

They feel that way because they want to preserve the beautiful wilderness we all must share. They don't want to see it burned down. They don't want to see people die. They want to experience the wilderness in a condition that looks like it truly is wild.


I understand where the above poster is coming from, and I feel much of the same, BUT:

it implies that fire is not a natural part of wilderness and nature, that it is an UN-natural enemy that should be eliminated from our forests, altogether.

That might be extreme, but it actually represents much of fire management, particularly of the last half century.

Fire, as you all know, is a normal, and natural part of wilderness and forests. The real mistake is suppression of fire, and it's natural cycle, which is responsible for a large part of the ongoing danger in our forests, even not in drought years and parched conditions.



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Re: USDA alert no fire allowed?

Postby Tom_H » Fri Jul 19, 2013 5:16 pm

Ken M wrote:
They feel that way because they want to preserve the beautiful wilderness we all must share. They don't want to see it burned down. They don't want to see people die. They want to experience the wilderness in a condition that looks like it truly is wild.


I understand where the above poster is coming from, and I feel much of the same, BUT:

it implies that fire is not a natural part of wilderness and nature, that it is an UN-natural enemy that should be eliminated from our forests, altogether.

That might be extreme, but it actually represents much of fire management, particularly of the last half century.

Fire, as you all know, is a normal, and natural part of wilderness and forests. The real mistake is suppression of fire, and it's natural cycle, which is responsible for a large part of the ongoing danger in our forests, even not in drought years and parched conditions.


Actually, I did not imply any of the things you are attributing to me. You somehow inferred them. One of my degrees is in biology and I am very familiar with fire ecology. Yes, fire started by lightning and spontaneous combustion is part of the natural cycle of forest ecology. The thing is we do not live in a pristine environment. There are communities adjacent to wilderness areas. Unnaturally suppressing all fire does lead to an unnatural accumulation of undergrowth which then leads to fires of such intensity (e.g. the Yellowstone fires) that mature trees are killed. Prior to human intervention, fires occurred frequently and spread widely before undergrowth could accumulate. In this modern world, undergrowth accumulation is best controlled in national forests by selective cutting and in National Parks and wilderness areas through small managed fires which are carefully set and monitored during favorable conditions (low temperature, no wind, elevated humidity). Such fires are not intense enough to kill mature trees, only to clear the forest floor.

Maybe this is not a correct conclusion, but it could be said that you are implying that backpackers should not worry about their campfires starting a forest fire because it is a part of the natural ecosystem anyway. I doubt you mean that, however your tone certainly allows one to conclude that you are implying it. Forest fires caused by careless campers and smokers are not part of the natural ecology. Even the slightest hint that they are is very irresponsible, because (as I said before) this may lead to loss of life of other backpackers, nearby residents, and fire fighters.
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Postby sheperd80 » Sat Jul 20, 2013 1:57 pm

I always start a fire when its legal. But Im responsible and respect nature when doing so. However my last trip was just after they set the fire ban and we managed just fine with stoves and headlamps.

I will say though that the work of building a fire and the ambience of having one lit is part of the appeal. When it gets dark it gets a bit boring so I find other ways to entertain myself. Sometimes ill go on night hikes, or ill build something like a spear or camp couch (using rocks, fallen logs and a thermarest). Sometimes we just drink and BS, or go to bed early. I prefer a fire but its definitely not a deal-breaker.

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Re: USDA alert no fire allowed?

Postby dave54 » Sat Jul 20, 2013 7:41 pm

Conventional wisdom used to be once a fire started the fire behavior and effects were the same regardless of the cause. A human caused fire had the same ecological effects as a lightning caused one (spontaneous combustion in a natural fuel bed does not occur -- possible in a human altered fuel bed like a chip pile. It is quite rare). Recent research suggests there are different ecological effects from a human caused fire versus lightning, mostly because of seasonality of the burn. Most of the destructive fires with high severity burn occur in September, after the peak of lightning season. Lightning peaks from late June to mid August, when forest conditions are not as dry as September.

As noted above, we no longer live in a world where fires can just be allowed to burn. That era is gone and no amount of wishful thinking or massive policy change can bring it back. Even in the settlement era fires created problems -- newspaper articles from all over the western U.S. in the 1800s report smoke filling the valleys from fires in the mountains was common, sometimes lasting months. Vital records from the same era show an increase in deaths from heart and respiratory causes during the smoky periods. The following winter the same newspapers would report floods and mudslides destroying farms and bridges. It is even more critical today, as something around 70% of the national urban water supply is dependent upon forested watersheds. Throw in endangered species habitat, fisheries, and tourism dependent rural communities the risk of allowing fires to burn anywhere anytime is simply unacceptable. The Bob Marshall Wilderness of Montana has had a natural fire policy since 1972, where lightning caused fires may be allowed to burn. Despite the policy, about 50% of all lightning ignitions have been suppressed because of the risk to other resources. Fires in the remotest backcountry do not STAY in the remote backcountry. As they spread over the weeks and months they can threaten communities. One study, (about 20 years ago so the current numbers may have changed), showed that of the 25 most destructive wildfires in California (in terms of homes and improvements lost) 18 started 3 miles are more from the nearest dwelling.

So why not do more control burns? -- air quality regulations. A now retired Forest Service Fire Management Officer once quipped, after being told the Sierra Nevada Framework called for a tripling of current prescribed burn acres "Sure. I can do it. Just repeal the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, NEPA, a waiver from all air quality regulations, grant me immunity from any civil or criminal litigation, an unlimited budget, and I will get right on it." FYI, that is the reason the Framework collapsed -- without the required increase in prescribed fire acres the rest of the goals could not be met. Every Fire Management Officer in the Sierra stated emphatically the burn goals were impossible. The CDC recognizes smoke from forest fires as a public health hazard.

The reason for a fire ban above the timberline is not for wildfire. Because of the sparse vegetation fires above the timberline tend not to spread far or fast. The reason is to preserve the limited woody debris for the soils and wildlife.
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Re: USDA alert no fire allowed?

Postby caddis » Sun Jul 21, 2013 6:39 am

AlmostThere wrote:What I'm upset with are the folks out there who feel they are somehow special and get to ignore reasonable precautions or regulations.


Are they reasonable precautions and regulations?? If you look at Exhibit A in the the forest service's own Forest Order 15-13-08, it lists that the sierra above 7-8000 feet as a "Low Fire Hazard Area"

http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOC ... 427487.pdf
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Re: USDA alert no fire allowed?

Postby jessegooddog » Sun Jul 21, 2013 11:06 am

Doesn't mean it won't burn, and the forest floor and critters need the decaying wood.
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Re: USDA alert no fire allowed?

Postby rlown » Sun Jul 21, 2013 11:08 am

Dave I didn't mean to leave you out as you said it first:

The reason for a fire ban above the timberline is not for wildfire. Because of the sparse vegetation fires above the timberline tend not to spread far or fast. The reason is to preserve the limited woody debris for the soils and wildlife.



jessegooddog wrote:Doesn't mean it won't burn, and the forest floor and critters need the decaying wood.


+1 on that comment. It's a good rule. :thumbsup:
Last edited by rlown on Sun Jul 21, 2013 11:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: USDA alert no fire allowed?

Postby AndyMac321 » Sun Jul 21, 2013 11:25 am

Drop a few glow sticks into a red or orange nalgene and give it a shake every now and then. O:)
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Re: USDA alert no fire allowed?

Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Sun Jul 21, 2013 10:10 pm

The hermit wrote:Bring a stove. I instead of staring down at a campfire all night let your eyes adjust and look up at the stars. Could be the best part of your trip.

This. Fire hypnosis is a drag, everybody staring at the fire like zombies.
Although, I don't know about the stars part. We usually get to bed at sunset especially in high summer, and get up before sunrise, usually packing the last stuff in our packs just as the sun hits. Nothing like being on the trail as the wilderness wakes up and the world is new.
Naturally there is the occasional nocturnal call of nature, and if you are not freezing your tush off, its nice to look up at the starry universe and realize what a tiny speck of protoplasm you really are.
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Re: USDA alert no fire allowed?

Postby caddis » Mon Jul 22, 2013 6:53 am

jessegooddog wrote:Doesn't mean it won't burn, and the forest floor and critters need the decaying wood.
I'm afraid you don't understand my point. It's an extreme measure for extreme conditions yet they freely admit that conditions aren't even close to extreme at elevations in which most people backpack.


It sounds to me like just another controlling, oppressive, unreasonable regulation put in place by a lazy bureaucrat.
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Re: USDA alert no fire allowed?

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Jul 22, 2013 7:07 am

caddis wrote:
jessegooddog wrote:Doesn't mean it won't burn, and the forest floor and critters need the decaying wood.
I'm afraid you don't understand my point. It's an extreme measure for extreme conditions yet they freely admit that conditions aren't even close to extreme at elevations in which most people backpack.


It sounds to me like just another controlling, oppressive, unreasonable regulation put in place by a lazy bureaucrat.



All I know is, if you burn out some favorite place I like to go and make it inhospitable and ugly - I'm gonna find you! Everything up there is DRY. It's a tinder box.

People are ridiculously careless about fires and I end up putting them out - in vacated campsites. I found a still-hot ring OFF TRAIL while on a search once. Pisses me off.

There have already been a ton of fires out there caused by campfire error - people evacuated the hills around Mariposa because of one, just a month and a half ago. Lives are risked and millions of dollars of property damage, and bans are unreasonable? Better no fires than no people. I'm about to the point that I think the average camper is not to be trusted with matches. There are some former beautiful places that are now hell to hike through because of people.
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Re: USDA alert no fire allowed?

Postby artrock23 » Mon Jul 22, 2013 8:19 am

AlmostThere wrote:Better no fires than no people.


Much as I despise over-regulation, I completely agree with this. Not having a fire (and nowadays I never do, since i'm always camped above 10K) is a small trade-off to be able to have access to the wilderness in a 'high fire conditions' season.
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