Western Region Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy Newsletter # 11

Study Investigates Disaster Prevention

How Risk Management Can Prevent Future Wildfire Disasters in the WUI

In this article written by Dave Calkin, Jack Cohen, et al, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal (PNAS), the researchers look at the “wildfire paradox” in which wildfire suppression inevitably leads to ecologically significant wildfires with higher intensities and rapid growth that are unable to be suppressed. This increases wildfire management costs and the likelihood of wildfire disasters.

The researchers examine the conditions under which WUI wildfire disasters occur and introduce a wildfire risk assessment framework. Using the example of the Fourmile Canyon fire near Boulder, CO in 2010, they examine how prefire mitigation activities failed to prevent significant structure loss. In light of these results, they suggest the need to reevaluate and restructure wildfire mitigation programs aimed at reducing residential losses from wildfire. They find that managing the susceptibility of homes to ignitions is a necessary prerequisite for reducing home loss. Unless the homeowners are involved in reducing fuels in the home ignition zone (HIZ), home losses will continue to be a major consequence of wildfire.

The authors tell us that although wildfires are inevitable, the destruction of homes,
ecosystems, and lives is not. If HIZs are well maintained by property owners, public land managers can focus on reducing fuels through prescribed burning and other treatments, to reduce the severity and spread of wildfire, and to reduce the unwanted consequences of wildfire. This study is related to all three goals of the Cohesive Strategy and supports the Western Action Plan’s Action 2.1.11. “Continue and expand existing programs to integrate fire science into the local context for fire adapted community efforts.”
Read the article here >

Burning Like a Mountain

In this article in Aeon Magazine, Stephen J. Pyne observes the landscape around him, before and after the Arizona’s Wallow Fire, and contemplates the future of the ecology, fire, and man in the West. He weighs the opposing options of too much and too little intervention. “To do nothing is to risk losing everything save the notion of the Wild itself. To do something will guarantee errors.” Read the article here >

Tribe Thins Forest to Improve Forest Health

The Northern Cheyenne Tribe is thinning trees on its reservation in Montana to reduce wildfire risk, reduce the spread of pine beetles, and provide winter employment to tribal members. The tribe is looking to the future. While timber prices are low now, perhaps the markets will recover when these stands are ready for harvest. Instead of using contractors, the tribe hired tribal employees to do the work. One woodsman said, “It’s all good. The Tribe is giving us some work and the thinned areas look nice after we’re done. Otherwise, it might just all burn up.” The WRSC applauds the tribe’s work consistent with the Action Plan’s Action 2.3. “Develop and promote local collaborative capacities to implement fuels treatments, forest restorations, and respond to fire. Read more here >

USFS and NRCS Partner to Improve Forest Health

The US Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service have entered into a multi-year partnership to improve the health and resiliency of forest ecosystems, called the Chiefs’ Joint Landscape Restoration Partnership. In 2014, the partnership will invest $30 million in 13 projects nationwide to reduce wildfire threats to communities and landscapes. In the West, these projects were selected: In California, the San Bernardino and Riverside County Fuels Reduction Project, and the Mid-Klamath River Communities Project; in Oregon, the East Face of the Elk Horm Mountains Project; in Montana, the Flume/Chessman Reservoir Project; and in New Mexico, the Isleta Project. The projects work across boundaries and are led by collaborative groups consistent with the Western Action Plan’s Action O.4. “Emphasize landscape treatments where existing collaborative groups have agreed in principle on management objectives and areas for treatment, and encourage and facilitate the establishment of collaborative groups.” Project descriptions are posted here >

Hey Guys, Be Firewise

A new video trending now on YouTube teaches Firewise behavior using Legos. The video was created by homeschooled students in Leavenworth, WA, with the help of the Chumstick Coalition. Teaching principles of defensible space to school children sends the wildfire preparedness message home today, and educates future homeowners. This is a great example of the Western Action Plan’s Action 2.4.3. Develop promotional and practical informational materials for young audiences. Encourage active involvement of young people in home and neighborhood FAC-related assessments and actions.” Watch the video here >

Upcoming Learning and Networking Opportunities

February 19 Smoke Plume Rise Models Webinar 1-2 PM MST

February 25-27 Fostering Resilience in Southwestern Ecosystems: A Problem-Solving Workshop – Tucson, AZ

March 4-5 Washington Prescribed Fire Council Conference – Olympia, WA

March 17-19 2014 Wildland-Urban Interface Conference – Reno, NV

March 19-20 WRSC Face to Face Meeting – Reno, NV

April 15-17 Klamath Fire Ecology Symposium – Orleans, CA
For more info contact Will Harling.

May 3 Wildfire Community Preparedness Day- National.
Funding available for projects. See the website for details.