Dozers &The Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, & Ecology

#1

AP Updated: 4:12 PM PDT Mar 14, 2019
By Paul Elias

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) —
An environmentalist group is questioning the use of bulldozers to fight major wildfires, saying they’re ineffective and leave lasting environmental damage.

The Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, & Ecology organization released a report Thursday detailing bulldozer use during a Northern California wildfire in July. That fire killed eight people and destroyed 1,000 homes in and around Redding. One dozer driver died and another was seriously hurt.
Bulldozers are called in to help contain wildfires by clearing trees and vegetation in the blaze’s path.
The report found that the 305 miles of terrain the bulldozers cut through did little to slow the fire because flying embers jumped the lines.California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Scott Mclean didn’t respond to phone and email requests for comment. Follow this story to get instant e-mail alerts from KCRA on the latest developments and related topics.

#2

Folks this if frightening!!! I know most if not all experienced WLF will laugh this off as being ridiculous which it is, We need to push back hard now before momentum grows. The AP article is bing published in many local and regional papers this week. Federal land all-ready has far to many restrictions, we don’t need fewer tools we need more. During peek season Dozers should be allowed nearly everywhere including wilderness areas! Not the same as pushing through chaparral but with regard to the environmental issues compared to the suppression needs. In 1996 we used numerous dozers in the Point Reyes National Park to contain the Vision Fire. Dozers were the only way to cut line through the steep coastal topography in timber and mixed brush. Had containment lines not been completed in the few days they were allowing for heavy mop up, the next north wind pattern 10 days later would likely have pushed the fire south to the Bolinas Mesa with devastating results. The suppression repair was astounding. The following fall I hiked what was the main fire line that provided two way truck traffic with safety areas, it was literally impossible to recognize and I spent 5 days on that brake.

We always need to be smart about all suppression tools regarding environmental impacts, cost and benefit. The greater the potential damage a fire presents the environmental and cost benefits need to change based on the threat and operational benefit. Each fire is different so the rules for each fire need to be different if we want to get out ahead of these “MEGA” fires. Loosing or restricting dozers would be catastrophic! Spread th word.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) —
An environmentalist group is questioning the use of bulldozers to fight major wildfires, saying they’re ineffective and leave lasting environmental damage.

The Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, & Ecology organization released a report Thursday detailing bulldozer use during a Northern California wildfire in July. That fire killed eight people and destroyed 1,000 homes in and around Redding. One dozer driver died and another was seriously hurt.

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Bulldozers are called in to help contain wildfires by clearing trees and vegetation in the blaze’s path.

The report found that the 305 miles of terrain the bulldozers cut through did little to slow the fire because flying embers jumped the lines.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Scott Mclean didn’t respond to phone and email requests for comment.

Follow this story to get instant e-mail alerts from KCRA on the latest developments and related topics. that the fire would not have been contained when the next north wind event rolled in and would have pushed the fire south likly through the Bolinas Mesa

#3

One of their key points is we should use dozers less when conditions render the likelihood of success to be very low. This is a common-sense idea, but of course it is difficult to make that call, or to know what conditions will be when a fire arrives at the line, which is why we seem to put in dozer line on every major ridge within 5 miles of a ripping fire.
Most wilderness areas in fire-prone areas have evolved with and need fire. I understand fires can cause a lot of problems to the built environment when they leave the backcountry, but I’m not sure what we are saving within the wilderness when we try to ‘protect it’ from fire. Focusing on fire hazard reduction around the edges of wilderness and roadless areas (more rx fire) would buy us a lot more leeway in managing backcountry fires - I am not a fan of heavy iron in the wilderness.

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#4

I have always found your input very insightful but I am going to totally disagree on this one. I have read the report and watched their video and it is aimed at total removal of the use of dozers. One example of a lie is they show a rehabbed road that is mid slope below the hogback that descends to the lake (likely Shasta) claiming it was an example of unsuccessful dozer line. It appears this road was used as lake access likely for water.

I do agree that dozers are used when they can and should be avoided. Speaking from experience it is nearly impossible to predict success or failure of dozer line and firefighters are always going to try when there is a chance as we should.

As far as “wilderness areas” as you mention we have built such a lack of fire regime since 1910 and removal of most logging for the last 30 years we are in a hell of a mess now. Allowing fires to establish and linger in the wilderness areas and hope to control them at the boundaries of these areas has been proven in the last decades to be impossible. Unfortunately until some balance is restored we must not allow fires to linger in wilderness areas or “light on the land” areas that do not have a very significant barrier between them and thew wilderness outer boundary. The repeated years of month long fires in the Shasta T has destroyed the Trinity County Economy.

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#5

Ask the person with their house still standing that was rung by a Dozer, how ineffective they are. Lets just keep them on a IA dispatch. Dozers are a crucial part of suppression resources responding to fires.

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#6

As someone who supervises Equipment, I can speak 1st hand about their effectiveness. On Mendencino Comex, had dozer line been put it instead of the Mastocation treatment the burn over of the FF and near miss would never had happened. This incident shows how ineffective the shaded fuel break was in this area. As the report stated, the accident occurred when fuel, weather & topography all came into alignment. What the report leaves out was there was a plan for dozer line a week before, when conditions were better and the fire was still miles away in the Wilderness.

The elimination of a critical piece of dozer line, coupled with an advancing fire, that became aligned was a contributing factor that was not address in the FLA.

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#7

I read the entire report. There are many misconceptions and flawed fallacies with their work. Yes, the Native Americans did actively burn the native landscape in their time. The substantial difference between then and now is the increasing penetration of people into the rural setting. This creates a much more complex environment for performing fuel reduction burns, whether that is a pile burn or area burn. Secondly, control lines still have to be established for those activities. I would venture to say that most if not all of us have been called to work an escaped “controlled burn” at some point. Thirdly, and perhaps most impactful to conducting successful control burns is the current climate in CA considering several elements including the drought and the ~129M standing tree mortality, which in and of itself is a tremendous personnel safety issue.

Another notable item that I found completely missing, is that dozer lines are not just used for pure containment efforts but are also used to begin breaking apart the extreme energy that is built up in large open areas of land. There are many different options we use in addition to dozer lines such as roads, rivers, lakes, and even golf courses but the desired outcome is the same, which is to distribute the massive amount of energy that keeps the high impact fires moving.

The final item which really struck me, is that they provided no alternative methods towards containment of these high impact fires, which we had a lot in 2018 and probably will again in the coming years. If you remove dozers from the equation, what methods does FUSEE propose to use? I will tell you that no amount of aircraft or mastication will effectively create containment lines, and this same group, denounced the high amount of retardant used on the Soberanes Fire so, it doesn’t appear that they are too fond of that either.

I could be completely wrong, but the public still expects us to provide contain and control efforts for these large fires and reduce the civilian casualties and property loss. I am not entirely sure those public objectives are well served by limiting when and where tools that we use today and proven to be effective.

One final note, it is very sad and somewhat disheartening that we have a group of people from our own community who are casting stones upon the work we do as firefighters to protect the public from the devastating effects of wildland fires and in many cases in the past couple of years, their losing everything they own.

Rule 10 - Fight Fire Aggressively, But Provide for Safety First

Ok, I will step off my soapbox now.

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#8

I for one liked your soapbox. There was a reason back in the Day all the major ridges down in Socal had dozer line on them. Your pretty much spot on here in my eyes. Fired off a ton of dozer line and laid hose in tandem with them. Like I said before keep them on IA, and go back a rehab after they are done if need be.

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#9

That we are even having this discussion, shows how out of touch with the real world a huge segment of the population is.

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#10

You are not on a soap box, your are on a fact box. we need to be loud and clear on this issue, keep it up!!!

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#11

Do not step off off the “soap box” it is critical the the voice of experience speaks loud and clear! We need responses in social media, letters to the editor every time this false narrative pops up. The current fire issues in the west are a complex mix of many factors that have blended together over the last 150 plus years reaching a critical point in the 1990’s.

I would like to suggest that the long term MACRO issues begin with Native Indians burning the land regularly ended, grazing game species were not limited by fencing prior to ranching became prevalent dramatically changing centuries old grazing patterns. Then the great fires of 1910 gave Gifford Pinchot the opportunity to get the “total fire exclusion” policy enacted throughout the country.

The next big one to come along is the mechanized logging that allowed for logging at a scale never imagined. Forestry practices were very slow to catch up to these capabilities causing many dramatic environmental problems. As often happens the pendulum quickly swung to the nearly complete elimination of logging and the creation of expansive wilderness designated areas where drastic fire suppression restriction exist. This created lack of access in many areas (south west Oregon for one) and an even more unnatural fuel beds in many areas. Air quality regulations and liability problems has nearly eliminated effective control burning to boot. All of this has allowed invasive species, primarily conifers to grow all the way to the ridge-lines and eliminating the vast meadows that previously broke up the forest fuel beds.

In the 70’ies the building into the landscape began and by the eighties the urban interface, intermix and all the other names that have been popular became a huge issue in the willdland fire environment and has grown exponentially to this date. This issues has had many effects beyond just assets at risk. With the development has come the introduction of many highly pyrophytic exotic plants that not only surround houses and developments but have spread far into the landscape. The desire to live in nature has not only made millions of homes indefensible during high fire conditions but a total lack of evacuation and or shelter in mass safety zones has morphed into a very significant life safety issue. Along with the fuel issue with people and development comes added potential ignition sources.

So in the short term aggressive fire suppression is our only way to combat this issue and dozers are a critical part of that. Going forward we must provide for adequate evacuation / shelter in place safety zones for communities at risk. Modify fuels in and around communities to adequately reduce fire behavior under severe conditions so that with fire hardening and defensible space can allow assets to survive. Roads and right-a-ways in the wildland need to be modified to allow them to be used as fire breaks and evacuation routs and strategically place safety zoned for fire personal as well as evacuating motorists (this would help lesson the use of dozers). Further out into forests and mountains control burning and best management practices that must include logging need to brake up the large scale fuels into a pattern that will support varying levels of beneficial fire behavior.

Every stake holder will not get everything they want, but we cannot allow the “environmental card” to trump every serious effort to correct this issue. For the last 3+ decades every and any environmental card has trumped any and nearly all attempts to correct the conditions generated by our actions of the last 150 years. I argue that the mostly well intended environmental efforts have culminated in the current environmental disaster we are now in. We must move forward with aggressive effective measures while being good stewards of the land and environment.

OK, now I will climb off my soap box.

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#12

My forestry prof put it this way. When you travel around the woods you may see a 20 or 100 acre clear cut. We know it looks like a postage stamp when compared with the woods surrounding it. But to the guy who lives in an apartment in SF that is more land than he can possibly conceive of. Unfortunately, people with that mind set help set forest policy. Every tree and bush is sacred and not to be disturbed in any way.

I even worked with a guy like this on a FS fire crew. He talked just like Tommy Chong. He was upset we were chucking whole trees from the roadside into a chipper. And wanted no part of actual logging. I asked what he thought should be done about the problem. “Just let it groooow, man”. Say this like Chong. But that is what he actually thought. I just shook my head and let the conversation wander elsewhere.

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