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Posts tagged: wildfires

The Cost of Fighting Wildfires is Sapping Forest Service Budget

Heavy helicopter drops fire retardant

U.S. Forest Service photo by Kari Greer.

Cross-posted from the Seattle Times:

Wildfires are now burning in Washington and across the West, in a year that may become the hottest on record. As our forests go up in flames, so too does the budget of the U.S. Forest Service, putting at risk lives, property, clean air and water, and jobs for thousands.

The number of fires the Forest Service and its partners fight every year is staggering: There have been more than 36,000 fires this year alone. And although we are successful at suppressing or managing 98 percent of fires when they start, the 1 to 2 percent of fires that escape are expensive, constituting 30 percent of annual costs. Read more »

Wildfire-Related Tragedy Leads to Landmark Forest Restoration Partnership

A tractor working on trees

In July/August 2013 the Forest Service and City of Flagstaff, Arizona conducted a pilot project off FR240 (Schultz Pass Road) to assess impacts and capabilities of two types of logging equipment on steep slopes and best methods for slash piling on slopes (to allow for the greatest consumption during prescribed pile burning). (FWPP photo)

The Schultz Fire of 2010 started with an abandoned campfire. High winds blew the flames into neighboring trees and brush, igniting a wildfire that would grow to 15,000 acres of the Coconino National Forest and threaten residents near Flagstaff, Arizona. In the following days 750 homes would be evacuated. It took 300 firefighters several weeks to contain the fire in the steep slopes North and East of the city.

Flagstaff had been spared from fire, but not its aftermath. In July 2010, heavy flooding due to monsoonal rain events on the burned-over slopes of the San Francisco Peaks caused an estimated $133-147 million in damage to neighborhoods just outside the city.  A 12-year-old girl, Shaelyn Wilson, was killed when she was swept away in a flash flood. Read more »

Drones can be Deadly for Wildland Firefighters

An Airtanker dropping fire retardant on a wildfire

An Airtanker drops fire retardant on a wildfire. (USFS Photo)

Imagine if a hostile country sent an Unmanned Aircraft System or UAS, otherwise known as a drone, to disturb the efforts of firefighters during a catastrophic wildfire. The confusion that might ensue could cause loss of life and property as flames jump fire lines simply because resources have been diverted or grounded to identify and remove the UAS.

But these threats aren’t coming from an enemy state. They are being flown by our own citizens and impeding the job of our firefighters.  This isn’t a script for a Hollywood film. It’s really happening.

Recently, unauthorized drones disrupted wildfire operations in southern California twice in one week. Because of these drones, Airtanker operations were suspended on both the Sterling Fire and Lake Fire on the San Bernardino National Forest. Read more »

In Recently Burned Forests, a Woodpecker’s Work is Never Done

A black-backed woodpecker

The black-backed woodpecker is a burned forest specialist. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Following a wildfire, some might see dead trees. Woodpeckers see possibilities.

The black-backed woodpecker is one such bird—a burned forest specialist—who readily chooses fire-killed trees (snags) in which to drill cavities for nesting and roosting.

When the woodpecker moves on, its cavity turns into valuable habitat for other forest-dwelling species. Read more »

And the Winner of the Smokey Bear Poster Contest is…

Audrey Morga, national winner of the 2015 National Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl poster, standing with U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl

Audrey Morga, national winner of the 2015 National Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl poster, stands with U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl. (Photo by Dominic Cumberland, U.S. Forest Service)

For 54 years, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Garden Clubs Inc., have worked together to sponsor the National Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl poster contest that reaches elementary children throughout the U.S.

This year’s grand prize winner is Audrey Morga, an 11-year old, and a fifth grader at St. Bernardine of Siena School in Woodland Hills, California.

“When I found out that I won, I had to pinch myself to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming,” said Morga. Read more »

Managing for Wildfires Every Single Day of the Year

Research Forester Mike Battaglia leading a field tour at the Manitou Experimental Forest

Research Forester Mike Battaglia leads a field tour at the Manitou Experimental Forest, in Colorado, describing research aimed at understanding how different tree densities influence growth rates and subsequent re-entry, in order to maintain longevity of restoration treatments. Photo credit: US Forest Service

On June 9, 2012, a lightning strike sparked a wildfire in the mountains west of Fort Collins, Colorado, burning into the Roosevelt National Forest. The High Park fire burned over 87,000 acres and remains the third largest fire in recorded Colorado history, with more than 250 homes destroyed.

Matt Champa, assistant prescribed fire specialist with the Canyon Lakes Ranger District of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, remembers clearly the two and a half weeks the High Park Fire burned. Matt was among the individuals actively working on the ground to suppress and contain the fire; at its height, more than 2,000 people were involved in the suppression effort. Read more »