Reducing Fire Potential Through Fuel Management
Hazardous fuels, such as decadent sage, dead or dying trees, 'honeypots' of stacked slash from logging, and ladder fuels in thick forests, need to be recognized and amended to reduce fuels should a wildfire occur. Because wildfire spread is largely fuel and wind dependent, reduction of burnable materials is critical. The primary methods for surface fuel reduction are prescribed fires and mechanical removal.
Prescribed fires are carefully planned and the terrain prepped for the opportune wind, humidity, and temperature conditions for safe and effective fuel reduction. The fire is conducted to burn slowly in a controlled manner, to remove surface detritus and ladder fuels which can contribute to crown fires. While the smoke created is an unwanted side effect, the smoke is far less than a fast wildfire that must be managed after the fact. Few prescribed fires get away, having a national average of 99.92% success. (http://wildfiretoday.com/documents/2012_Escaped_Rx_Review_Summary.pdf)
In summary, prescribed fires (Rx) are used to reduce ladder fuels, curb invasive species proliferation, and restore ecosystem integrity. Typically they are conducted fall through spring, past the instability of summer weather patterns intensified by long hours of sunlight.
Mechanical removal of fuels, or biomass, is conducted with hand tools or with a variety of machines depending on the topography, plant species, and social factors of the location. Chippers, skidders, mowers, ficons, and masticators, are just a few of the machines used. (see slideshow below) Biomass removal is a process that requires analysis at each site to combine the goal of fuel reduction and land management agency goals, such as wildlife species protection. (http://www2.dnr.cornell.edu/ext/info/pubs/Energy/Biomass_Case_Studies_Report%202008.pdf)
The following links offer a variety of information from various agencies and organizations for the northwest.
Oregon Prescribed Burn Fire Council (facebook available currently)
Washington Prescribed Burn Fire Council
Prescribed Fire Study: Reducing the Carbon Footprint of Wildfires (2010)
Natural Resources Conservation Services: Purposes, Types, Planning, Fire Terminology & more
Prescribed Fire Information
Eastern OR Agricultural Research Center: downloadable PDFs of Guidelines, Classes. Burns, OR.
Invasive Grass: Ecologically Based Invasive Plant Management
Biochar: Alaska Initiative
Biochar: International Initiative
The Nature Conservancy: Conservation Gateway
Fire & Climate Change
Videos: Making the Good Black
MOON HILL PRESCRIBED BURN, 2014
The slideshow below features a prescribed burn on Moon Hill, near Frenchglen, OR, September 2014. This was a Type 1 burn due to complexity and acreage. The objective was to reduce expansion of juniper in sagebrush steppe and thereby increase water production for wildlife, such as Sage Grouse, and livestock forage. This fuels treatment involved 10,543 acres. Crew: Burns BLM crews assisted by Vale Interagency Hotshots. Thank you for sharing your documentation.