Friday, February 23, 2007

Burned areas

Forest fires are a natural part of the ecology of many forests. Perhaps because of my age and the constant Smokey the Bear teachings when I was younger, I still react to forest fires as if they were a disaster. Intense fires do change the area to a point that is almost unrecognizable and I know that an intensely burned over area will not be the same in my lifetime. Still my hiking in Yellowstone NP is helping me change my views. I have been hiking in Yellowstone at least once a year since 1994; I had been there several times before the 1988 fires but not on a yearly basis. Watching the regeneration of forested areas from year to year helps me accept better the place of fires. Of course much of the burned forest in Yellowstone is lodgepole pine, a species that needs fire and grows quickly.

Other types of forest do not regenerate from an intense fire as quickly and the fire can be a tragedy. I am thinking specifically of the Thirtymile fire which killed 4 firefighters (http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/wenatchee/fire/thirtymile.html). The Thirtymile fire occurred in the Chewuch valley in northern Washington state on the east side of the Cascade mountains. This was not a natural fire but one started by a person who did not adequately put out a campfire. I did not know any of the firefighters on this fire, but I have known many people who spent their summers or much of their career fighting fires. I had camped and hiked many times from the end of the Chewuch road, after the road reopened after the fire I have been there once. My concerns are trivial compared to those who lost their lives and their families; still I felt a great sadness at the loss and waste. I also know the forest will regenerate and that lightening could have caused a similar fire.

In the years since I have put out several campfires left near roads in forested areas. I was amazed that in the year following the fire, people were still careless about putting out fires in the same area although I've drown fires in several forests in the northwest US. Please, if you are going to have a fire PUT IT OUT fully and carefully. Please look to this website for instructions http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/wenatchee/fire/campfire-out.html.

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