Love/hate relationship with fire

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 16:22:21 09/12/16

In Reply to: Good news? posted by Hoot


You identify a real paradox. I know that I believe in the value of wildland fire as a natural resource management tool in a general sense. At the same time, the 1988 Fires really bummed me out, because with 670,000 acres burned in one summer, it significantly altered the viewscape. Then, over the years, as I hiked through burned areas, I encountered another double-edge sword. In some cases, fire had opened up access through certain areas. In others, the combination of snags blown over by the wind post-fire, and choking new growth of lodgepole pine worked to complicate off-trail travel.

In the case of the Berry Fire, it's closing the road is bad news for anyone trying to get between the two parks.

With other fires burning at present, I worry about getting a retrograde wind, like the wind that produced all the crazy fire behavior near Lake Butte and Sedge Bay back in 2003 or 2004. A retrograde wind, blowing out of the east or northeast could torch West Yellowstone, which is why the firefighting effort is concentrating on burnouts just east and northeast of West Yellowstone, to produce a protective buffer. I worry about the Central Fire, because I don't want it to trash certain areas around Upper Alum Creek and Glen Africa Basin. I worry about the Buffalo Fire trashing certain areas around Slough Creek.

Pulling back to a view from 50,000 feet, I believe we are going to see progressively more wildland fire in the western U.S. and Canada in coming years, due to the increasing occurrence of long term droughts. Something has been working to manipulate the flow of moisture into the mainland for many years now, whether it is global warming, God, or the Russians. We are finding that fires are tending to be bigger, even when we fight them with everything at our disposal. The increasing heat and extension of the growing season are changing the dynamic in our forests, and that is also acting to promote more fire. Various insect species that are finding more favorable conditions for life are having a field day in our forests. This is particularly hazardous in the Northern Rockies, and the forests are a reflection of that. It's hard to believe how many acres of forest we are losing annually to pine bark beetles, because the 3 or 4 day long cold spells with temperatures below zero that used to happen each winter are not occurring anymore. To say it is complicated is understatement, but we are living with the outputs every day.


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