Forum Index > Public Lands Stewardship > A letter from my friend Ray Kresek about fires around Chelan. Your thoughts?
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jinx'sboy
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PostMon Aug 29, 2022 9:29 pm 
Good thoughts, John - Thanks! And I had missed TW’s earlier post, also informative. The same was true in the Methow; I can recall the 1980’s; the Twisp Ranger District and the Winthrop RD could each, regularly, make a 20 person hand crew available…..and often scratch together a 3rd 20 crew made up of engineering and road crew folks. These crews sometimes went out of area for days at a time. At the same time another 20 person crew might come from Conconully/Tonasket. That would be 80 people; WITHOUT affecting the ability of local crews and engines to respond to new fires. Nor leaving recreation and other jobs completely uncovered. These were ‘irregular crews’ as they used to be known, meaning they were not composed of regular fire folks. Made up mostly of timber, recreation and biology folks, they often had deep and extensive fire experience. I recall being on one of those crews; we had 5 members qualified as Division Supervisor and 2 of those as Ops Chiefs. (for those not in the fire world - that is decades of experience in just those 5 folks). That could never happen today for the reasons John points out. Today, I suspect it would be impossible to have even one 20 person crew available to go out of the area from those same locales, and their experience would likely be pretty thin. That is not a slam on them…it is just how things are now.

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John Morrow
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PostTue Aug 30, 2022 4:16 am 
jinx'sboy wrote:
Good thoughts, John - Thanks!
Much appreciated, jinx'sboy. Here's a question for current and former fire lookouts. I can't speak for north of Lake Chelan in this comment I am about to make, but have confidence in it for southern Chelan, Kittitas and Yakima counties. Where is the lightning today that could have possibly ignited and sustained low intensity fire on a landscape level in such short fire intervals? Open forests mean discontinuous fuels, thus more multiples of lightning ignitions would be needed in relatively small areas. I simply do not see how today's storm patterns could have sustained that kind of fire. I don't think that native people burned on that scale. Kittitas County has had maybe two to three (max) lightning delivering storm fronts per summer for each of the last ten, heck, I'll say twenty years. That's not enough lightning. Was Wx different 50 to 200 years ago?

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”-Mary Oliver “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.” ― MLK Jr.
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treeswarper
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PostTue Aug 30, 2022 5:54 am 
Thinking back, our crew should have walked off a night shift for safety reasons. We were working at night in lodgepole pine that had been fried pretty good--doing mop up. We often heard the crack of doom as a tree came down, but we stupidly kept working. That's what you did then. As to crew--at that time, we'd all worked together on some pretty hairy broadcast burns so we were familiar with each other. Burning often got a bit wild and what was supposed to be a few hours in the evening would turn into an all nighter trying to keep up with the fire as it jumped drainages, started burning in another unit, and we'd hear go to plan B. Beer in the shower in the wee hours of the morning. Sleep a couple of hours, then go to work doing your day job. Ugh.

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
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Pyrites
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PostTue Aug 30, 2022 6:16 am 
Then subtract a whole bunch of districts. Now it’s Cowlitz Valley, before Packwood and Randle. Shelton, Hoodsport, Quilcene, merged into Hood Canal R.D.

Keep Calm and Carry On? Heck No. Stay Excited and Get Outside!
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Scaler
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PostTue Aug 30, 2022 6:42 am 
The upper Mt Ellinor trailhead in the Olympics has Western White Pine planted on a decommisiond road. A USFS employee told me this was a rust resistant strain. I estimate the trees are around 25 years old and last time I was there, about 3 years ago they appeared to be doing fine.

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John Morrow
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PostTue Aug 30, 2022 7:14 am 
I think "irregulars" are mostly referred to as "militia" these days, though few they are.
treeswarper wrote:
As to crew--at that time, we'd all worked together on some pretty hairy broadcast burns so we were familiar with each other. Burning often got a bit wild and what was supposed to be a few hours in the evening would turn into an all nighter trying to keep up with the fire as it jumped drainages, started burning in another unit, and we'd hear go to plan B.
I totally neglected to consider this. That's where us militia got lots of our experience, for sure. Unit burns did got hot, super smoky, scorched soil and jumped lines often. Huge flame lengths at times when the heat and flames drew all the oxygen in further increasing the intensity. Spraying mist with the nozzle on the windward flank to keep the intensity down (to save some soil), while on one's knees with double bandannas across your face to find some pseudo air to breath wasn't so fun. Militia was usually told to hold the windward side! Visible today where 2nd growth edge meets a big cluster of snags even though most FS clearcuts were burned by the mid 90s. Of course we were always told by the burn boss or fire management, "No Hazard Pay"...not a wildfire! Very difficult to find windows to do underburn prescribed fire these days on the east slopes. Snowmelt, then wet wet wet, then summer drought extending well into fall(no burning), then big cold front and drenching rain. Window over. And the smoke always goes to the downvalley communities

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”-Mary Oliver “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.” ― MLK Jr.
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treeswarper
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PostTue Aug 30, 2022 7:29 am 
The fuels guy at Randle was wiser. I expected to be put into the smoke and was dreading going to the first burn. I was surprised that he put non fire people on the upwind side but he also kept folks moving down the hill following the fire progress so the smoke wasn't too awful. I asked him about this afterwards and his answer was that he wanted the non fire people to be happy to come and help burn when he needed help. A wise man. He'd be on the radio telling folks to pour the fuel on--get that column going! For non fire people, the column refers to the smoke column going straight up and making less smoke for the burning crew to deal with. When friends who I also worked with discussed the 30 mile incident, it sounded like they were a thrown together crew and had not worked together like we had as not much in the way of wild slash burning was going on at that time, so they didn't trust each other or know each other's capabilities.

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
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John Morrow
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PostTue Aug 30, 2022 7:45 am 
treeswarper wrote:
When friends who I also worked with discussed the 30 mile incident, it sounded like they were a thrown together crew and had not worked together like we had as not much in the way of wild slash burning was going on at that time, so they didn't trust each other or know each other's capabilities.
That's right, one of the key after action findings. At that time on the OWF 10 Type 2 firefighters from one ranger district would combine with 10 from another to make the 20. Since then, individual ranger districts received funding to have their own 20 person hand crew each year to build unit cohesion. Everybody went through hell, the deceased and their families, the survivors, the decision makers and their families who faced the blame whether warranted or not. I say not. Whole communities of Roslyn/Cle Elum, Leavenworth and of course Naches. Face that and then ask, why fight a fire with no values at risk? I might as well say this: On that day I was the Thorp Mountain Lookout. The column, 100 miles north, was so clearly visible. Into the stratosphere, obviously pyrocululous and making its own weather. It makes me emotional just picturing it. There was a 2nd similar column to the right, the Libby Fire.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”-Mary Oliver “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.” ― MLK Jr.
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Forum Index > Public Lands Stewardship > A letter from my friend Ray Kresek about fires around Chelan. Your thoughts?
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