Joined: 25 Dec 2006
Posts: 9317 | TRs
Location: Don't move here
|I had this typed up and the other thread got locked up. Guess there was too much name calling by the usual suspects?
Here's what I wrote up.
Wow. I've been off recreating and missed this. It's pretty good for the annual Fires Are Burning Up The WEST Side And Something Must Be Done thread. Perhaps we could have another category and name threads by year?
It's part of forest ecology. Always has been. And, GB, size does not old growth make. The diameter size of a tree does not necessarily mean it is old. Size has everything to do with what we call Site. If a tree happens to be growing in a good site, it will be larger than a tree the same age growing on a poor site.
I have learned from reading and hearing experts on the matter, that the west side of the Cascades does burn, burning is part of the ecology, and there are species that have adapted to these fires....Douglas-fir for the main part. On the lower elevations, you'll get the alder growing which is a nitrogen fixer and a few years later DF starts growing amongst the alder. These fires have occured when conditions were just right--the east wind that should be starting up any time makes for good burns.
As for sending crews to every fire, that isn't possible anymore. First of all, we need to think of the safety factor. Is it relatively safe? The danger isn't just from burning up, but more from trees toppling over, tops breaking off, rocks rolling, logs rolling, footing, etc. Is there somewhere to run to and be safe if things go to hell? Is the slope too steep to have good footing and not get smooshed by something rolling? Crews take this very serious now. After the 30 mile deaths, individuals were sued successfully so the crew leaders now worry about liability.
Firefighters must go through training and also pass a "pack" test. The agencies no longer pull men out of bars and send them off to dig line. Even after the basic training, one is considered to be green, which is why the Army folks usually are put to work mopping up and digging line around the burned areas. There is not an infinite number of crews to send to every smoke when we have a situation in the west like we do now.
Air support? When things get crazy, like they have been, equipment and crews are sent off on fires that are prioritized. A fire burning towards Redding, for example, will be more of a priority than a wilderness fire burning towards more wilderness. Helicopters and airtankers are very expensive. The helicopter is making money even when grounded.
Terrain is a factor. Airtankers can't get into every little draw in a mountainous area. Helicopters can, but it all depends on the wind and smoke. They have to be able to see the spot to drop that bucket of water on. They cannot fly in heavy winds, and they do not fly in the dark.
The forest should have a fire management plan. This will be like a forest plan, and will have areas delineated as to how hard they will be hit if a fire starts. I imagine it may have been open to public comment but I'm not sure.
Crews need rest. When you are on a large fire for very long, you become stupid. You are stupid because you are sleep deprived, your body is being worked hard in hot and smoky conditions, and I know I became very cranky. After a 16 hour shift (now it is supposed to be 12 hours) you come back to camp, wait in line for a shower, wait in line for food, and then try to sleep on the ground-- just like camping. If you are on night shift, you are even more sleep deprived. You'll be trying to sleep while helicopters are flying, backup alarms are going off, porta potties being sucked out, and it is most likely hot. Do that for a couple of weeks straight. Having experienced that a few times is why I get short with armchair experts who simply say, "They should send a crew." Well, chances are there is no crew around to send to a low priority fire. Like has already been pointed out, the budget has been in a downward spiral which means there isn't the money to hire very many folks.
Oh, and as for methods used in the wilderness? Usually, crews have to stick to the rules unless somebody has the courage to order a change in the rules. Smokejumpers have been trained to fall trees using crosscut saws. There are wilderness techniques to use--trying to be light on the land but keep the fire under control. Pulaskis, shovels and piss bags are used. Smokejumpers can be dropped in, as can rapellers. Sometimes a horse packer comes in with supplies or packs out the gear used--if there still is a pack string.
As to the smoke around the Cispus area? It continued for a bit because springtime broadcast burning became popular on both private and public lands. Crews would follow the melting snow into July burning the slash from the previous year's logging when it had been melted out for a few days--. This ended around 1987ish when the wind changed and Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle got smoked out on a nice, sunny weekend. (smiles whilst remembering)...
The Morton Journal would remind residents that the smoky air was the smell of the next crop of trees (money) and a necessary evil.
Now it just makes me cough--the smoke, not the newspaper.
What's especially fun about sock puppets is that you can make each one unique and individual, so that they each have special characters. And they don't have to be human––animals and aliens are great possibilities