Prescribed Fire Theory/discussion

#1

I’m working on a prescribed fire training exchange up in Orleans, on the middle Klamath River.
All of our units are too wet to burn today, especially north slopes, with wet duff under the top 1" or so of the leaf litter. We are looking at a good burn window starting Wednesday, but are currently shut down thru at least Thursday afternoon due to a statewide CAL FIRE burn ban. Pretty frustrating to be looking at standing down over 100 trainees from all over the country (and over ten from overseas) when we will have an excellent burning window, with wet aspects guaranteeing a very low probability of any escape, and our embedded IMET is telling us the forecast ridgetop winds Weds have a low probability of mixing down into the canyons where we will be burning.

North Ops Weather-2019
#2

Not sure how a CAL FIRE burn ban affects Orleans? None of that is SRA- it should all be FRA right? Understand your frustration, but can you appreciate the mixed messaging when we have such a serious event coming that will affect many areas that have not had the same precip as the Klamath basin?

#3

Pyro, sounds like a good week to go fishing.

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#4

A burn boss’s lament since time immemorial.

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#5

only a few of us old timers remember the story.

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#6

The private land in Orleans is SRA (jurisdictional responsibility), but federal DPA (direct protection for fire response).

#7

Is the private land not SRA but Fed DPA…Not too much private land there, that is not surrounded by Fed land or BIA…

#8

We eventually got permission to burn in Orleans last Friday, but missed two days of burning, with a cost to the incident of over $100,000 (over 100 firefighters stood down, even though our burning conditions were safe). Navigating the politics of getting our fire on the ground took an enormous amount of wrangling by the entire C&G of our Type III team. As forecast, the major winds never mixed down into the canyons of the Klamath River.

Given the extreme wildfires we all have experienced in the past two years, it is understandable people are afraid of fire, but fear of fire, and the resulting policies of full suppression, are the biggest causes of our current crisis.

In addition to suspension of burn permits on SRA lands, NorthOps suspended all burning in Northern California National Forests during last week’s wind event, even in areas outside of the forecast high-risk weather. The Six Rivers NF fire staff in the Orleans area petitioned the Forest FMO for an exemption and he said (paraphasing here) ‘There will be no exemptions. We know you have good conditions to burn, but this is a political decision, the optics of burning when there are red flag conditions around our borders are not good’.

Fall burn windows are tough to hit, and we can’t afford to waste a single day. We started the week with units (10 days after 0.5" of rain) which were still too wet to burn. The same dry front that brought the high winds to the Central Valley delivered the lower humidities that dried out our units enough to actually burn. We went from daytime minimum humidities Monday and Tuesday in the mid 50s to minimums in the 20s once the front arrived. Dry continental winds are the thing that dries out NorCal’s forests after early rains - they create the burn window. If we have blanket Region-wide burn bans any time there are red flag events in the fall, we’ll have a really hard time getting burning done.

We have the tools to understand and manage risk in how we plan and implement rx fire, but we need our leadership to have the courage to make science-based decisions, and stand behind the people who are working hard to put fire back into the landscape.

Here is a copy of the letter we wrote and sent to a wide number of CAL FIRE and other Nor Cal fire leadership.2019 Klamath TREX Burn Suspension Relief Request 10-9-19 Final.pdf (1.5 MB)

More info on the Klamth River TREX here:

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#9

Here is the problem with your view point- you are only viewing this from your perspective. You are not looking at this from the FMO, or Unit Chief perspective. If you do not have skin in the game with either the financial responsibility, or the political waves that come from an escape, I am not sure your opinion is anything more than that.
No one believes that there is and has been a build up of fuel, I just think everyone is hanging their hat on that. The issue we have is a weather issue. This fire season seems to be proving that, change in weather, not many large fires this summer.
Short term fuel is the only part of the triad we can change, long term weather is our problem.

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#10

We had the written support of the Unit Chiefs in HUU and SKU, and also from the local SRF district fire staff, but the exemptions were quashed at the Region-level. We had the conditions (and data) on our side - we have been burning for the past 3 days with no issues - if anything, conditions have been too wet. My point is we need to make burn-ban decisions based on science, not politics or fear. This is my opinion, of course. I speak for nobody else. Not sure I understand what you’re saying about fuels, but of course it is about weather - we had the right weather to burn, along with an NWS forecaster embedded in our team, but politics trumped data.

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North Ops Weather-2019
#11

Pyro, was it second hand knowledge that the Forest FMO said it was a political decision? Or did someone out Orleans office say it was a political decision.

#12

I saw the email, those were the exact words: “this is a political decision”.

#13

None of us want to admit it, but politics is a thing and can have real life implications. I know they should not, but thinking that way would be to ignore human behavior.
Everyday if you are in a decision making position you have to decide what hill you want to die on. Apparently that particular day it was not located in Orleans for those who had to make that decision.

#14

Unfortunately politics reigns down on practically every decision that is made. Look at global warming. Science be damned. Boots on the ground keep up the good fight though!!

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#15

Lots of moving parts and different agendas compete daily. NOPS had to decide between availability for the wind event down south and the potential for losing another burn after the Eldo’s oops. They went with what was seen as the safe option.

If there was another Tubbs or Thomas fire, there would be no resources to hold on to the burns up there or be able to respond. Catch 22, not enough resources to do both.

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#16

That makes sense in a weather vacuum, but the whole point I’m pushing is we had minimal risk of losing our burns in the Klamath Country. And if we did, we had a full Type III organization with 100 firefighters and half a dozen engines - plenty of resources for the conditions (mild winds, low fire danger in NFDRS, near freezing nights, overnight RHs in the high 70s)…
Most of the data or figures we used in our justification letter came directly from the ONCC GACC’s own website. The people at our coordination centers have access to some of the best weather intel in the world - we need to use it to inform these decisions., otherwise we’ll never get ahead.

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#17

Excellent article out of Wired just hit the internet Wednesday.

#18

Curious. What’s a fire stopper?

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#19

They’re marvelous wonderful people. Just beautiful people. I’ve met them, they do the best work, really they do

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#20

I’m glad POTUS supports doing burns. Now if he could get his Federal agencies to up their annual acreage about 99%…

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