So why are fires increasing in both numbers and size? -Warmer, drier conditions. -Fire suppression prevents the natural forest clean-up. -More people = more fire starts. -Less logging = more tress. -Forest health (beetle kill, fungus, over crowded).
Per Jack Cohen, USFS Researcher “In some ecosystems, such as ponderosa pine forests in the western US, the reduction of fire occurrences has resulted in significant changes to the species composition and increases in the amount of live and dead vegetation. Furthermore, it has been shown that aggressive fire suppression over many years has changed vegetation fuel structures. This has produced fuel accumulations and arrangements that have enhanced the potential for extensive areas of high intensity wildland fires experienced in recent years.”
As the build up of forest vegetation increases so does the stress on our forests as the trees compete for sunlight, water, and other nutrients. As forest health suffers, tress die and we get the increased potential for large wildfires.
Beetle Kill There is a lot of information out on the web about the pine beetle problem. I’m sure not an expert but what I’ve been hearing lately is that due to our shorter warmer winters the beetles are now having two reproductive cycles per year. So we’re now seeing an expediential population growth in the beetles population.
Healthy trees can withstand the beetle’s normal activity. The combination of unhealthy forests and the epidemic of beetles is leading to disaster. When the trees are dead the beetles are long gone.
1 st – Dead dry needles will allow fire to move easily from the ground into the tree canopy above. 2 nd – After the needles fall they’ll increase surface litter also standing dead trees create a “danger tree” issues for firefighters. 3 rd – When the dead trees fall we have dangerous snags and heavy dead and down which is much harder for firefighters to deal with. Beetle Kill Wildland Fire Problems
master Dense Conifer forests burn so hot that it can kill the trees and the surface vegetation.
master An open Conifer forest often burns less intensely, the trees survive, and the surface vegetation is cleaned up and often comes back stronger – look at the Meyer Ranch area.
ASPENS Live aspen trees tend not to burn due to the amount of moisture in their leaves. Aspen groves often act like a fire break slowing fire spread. I’ve planted aspens around my house
CAUSES OF WILDLAND FIRE -Lightning -Power lines -Railroads & other machinery -Illegal burning (debris) -House or car fires -Mismanaged camp fires & other legal burns -Arson
How do we fight wildland fires? 1 st – Prevention, but we can’t prevent all fires. 2 nd – Get-em while they’re small, hit the fire hard and fast. (Local fire departments) 3 rd – Anchor, flank, and pinch LIFE SAFETY is always our top priority! We’ll risk a lot to save a life. We risk a little to save property. We risk nothing to safe life or property already lost.
Key factors contributing to all wildfires: FUELS TOPOGRAPHY WEATHER
master Some fires grow so huge that firefighters can’t fight the fire so we remove fuels ahead of the fire and/or we treat the fuels ahead of the fire
Firefighter actions on large fires: - help evacuate those in the path of the fire - provide structure protection for as long as we can - cut fire breaks out in front of the fire if possible - use slurry on the vegetation to retard the fire spread - work at night when RH is high and fire activity is low - secure fire lines along the black burned area - burnout controllable areas out in front of the fire - get in fast after the fire front passes
Elk Creek Fire Protection District We are a mostly volunteer combination fire department staffed by 6-full time firefighters working in three teams of two on the 48/96 shift. Plus the Fire Chief, Fire Marshal and myself who also respond to emergency incidents. Currently our roster has about 65 volunteer firefighters. All our firefighters are trained and certified in:Structural Firefighting Emergency Medical Services Hazardous Materials response Rescue Operations (MVAs / Rope) and Wildland Firefighting All our volunteers are toned to all emergency calls.
During the Lower North Fork Fire we requested and received help from all over the country. Since the Lower North Fire small teams of Elk Creek Firefighters have helped out at other large fires in Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota. Elk Creek’s Tender 462 operating at the Squirrel Creek Fire in the Medicine Bow National Forrest just west of Laramie WY. Yes that’s a C-130 dropping slurry in the background.
Our biggest problem during a wildland fire is EMBERS How many of you saw the u-tube video from the Lower North Fork Fire of the family driving out?
EMBERS start spot fire out in front of the fire front. Sometimes a mile or more ahead. Embers impede evacuations. EMBERS are what burns down most homes!
STRUCTURE PROTECTION Structure Protection is when firefighters go into a neighborhood out in front of the fire to do “speed mitigation” around people’s homes, prep the home, and put out as many spot fires as they can until it’s too unsafe for them to stay.
NOTIFICATIONS Reverse 911 aka EPN (Emergency Preparedness Network) is a recorded phone call to landlines and registered mobile phones within a given area. Jeffco SO’s going door to door, sometimes firefighters too. Your neighbors Jeffco Sheriff’s blog / Pinecam / 285Bound / local radio DON’T WAIT to be told, if you feel threatened GO!
EVACUATIONS READY – SET – GO! Level 1: READY! There is an incident in the area. If you need extra time due to special needs leave now. There are no road closures at this time. Level 2: SET! This is a mandatory evacuate notice, get out now. Reentry into the area will not be allowed. You may take time to gather things but at your own risk. Level 3: GO! NOW this is a life or death situation.
PLAN be ready FEMA, Park County, and Jefferson County all talk about a 72-Hour kit. That’s for flat lander’s we’re mountain people and must be ready to survive on our own for a week without power Food, water, first-aid kit, medications, etc. Remember the big snow?
Plan to be evacuated the 5P’s People Pets Pills Photo Papers, important Have a plan – follow the plan!
Why do houses burn? How to I protect my house? Look around your house after a wind storm and see where the pine needles and pine cones are – that’s where the EMBERS will be too.
Flammability of some common siding materials Hardie plank 0 Polystrene 7 Gypsum 9 Treated Doug fir plywood 17 Cedar 70 Doug Fir plywood 91 T1-11 sidling200
WHAT CAN YOU DO? START! Far too often when people feel a task is too overwhelming they just give up. There’s the old saying, “When you ask for 100% you often get 0” I’m not here to tell you to cut all your trees or rebuild your house out of concrete, many of the little, simple, cheap things will make huge differences.
Prepare an evacuation plan What are you going to take if you have: 30-minutes, 15-minutes, 1-minute to GO? Where are you going to meet if you are separated from your family? What if your kids are in school? Do you have a neighbor who needs help?
MITIGATION - Take responsibility for your home and property. - Display your house number - Work on your defensible space, start at the house and work out a little more each year - clean gutters and under decks - keep grass and shrubs away from the house - cut your grass, limb up tree branches -Work with and help your neighbors -Start a Firewise USA Community
Shared Risk So many of our homes are so close to each other that they share defendable spaces. Homes downhill from yours will have a huge impact on the fire load you’ll see Roads, escape routes, water supply issues are common to everybody in the community
Other groups who help us Jefferson County Type-3 IMT Jefferson County Animal Control works with: Large Animal Rescue Group (HEAT) Small Animal Rescue Group
USEFUL LINKS www.elkcreekfire.org www.evergreenfirerescue.com www.firewise.org www.jeffco.us www.wildlandfireRSG.org www.projectwildfire.org Yep I do work a little