Happy September everyone. Zeke did a long video today and we’ve posted a transcript below. Zeke is livestreaming every morning at 7am Pacific Time on YouTube, unless otherwise noted on Twitter. He’s covering Rum Creek Fire and Six Rivers Complex every day at this time. Don’t miss his videos, subscribe to The Lookout’s YouTube channel.
I talk about new growth on the Six Rivers Lightning Complex and Rum Creek Fire. I spend 30 minutes or so answering live-stream questions about how large fires are managed and supervised, plus other topics.
The Transcript of Zeke’s Rivers and Rum September 1, 2022 video:
Livestream Questions in Bold.
Zeke Lunder 00:04
Good morning, everyone. Welcome back to The Lookout, first of September 2022. We’re going to talk this morning about the Six Rivers Lightning Complex and the Rum Creek Fire. And if you’re joining us for the first time, my name’s Zeke Lunder, I’m a wildfire analyst, working in Chico in Northern California, and The Lookout is a side job. My main job is working as a geographer and analyst on hazard mitigation, pre-fire planning work and prescribed burning. I’ve been doing this kind of wildfire Intel work since about 1999. During fire season we run a little business called The Lookout. All supported by viewers. I tell stories about what’s going on with fires, share interviews, talk about how fires are managed, and just kind of share insights I’ve gained in working in large fire management since the late 90s. I worked on most of the big fires in California and all over the West. So we’re going to use some maps and fly around and talk about what’s happening.
We’re gonna start off on with the Six Rivers Complex down by Willow Creek. This fire has been pretty active. We’ve been talking ever since they started their attack on this fire about the timing, getting fire on the ground and trying to have it wrapped up by the time the Big East Winds arrive. And just how it’s always this trade off. They’re getting things buttoned up. Looking up Cedar Creek here [referring to map on video version], we’ve been watching for several weeks, as the fires moved through here. It looks as though as there’s been kind of a massive firing operation that’s burned out this whole basin over the last 10 days or so. Before that we watched a big firing operation that kind of burned out the other side, this whole basin. And then that fire spotted kind of right when they are getting it all wrapped up. This north slope just wasn’t under control that whole time.
So far, so good, they’ve gotten some good depth here along this whole north flank. And maybe we don’t have to watch it back down here and run up the other side. That would be nice. Anyway, what we’re looking at here is yellow is areas that are cooling down. The red areas are pretty intensely hot. And the orange line is kind of the most recent drone mapping that was done after midnight. The orange (solid fills) were done around midnight.
These two white lines are the last 24 and 48 hours of spread before midnight last night (the 31st of August). We watched a couple nights ago as they took the drone and drew lines down these ridges and then the fire backed out from here and you can still see kind of how these fires back together and then are kind of backing down to the bottom. So if their mission was to bring the fire down slowly over the next three days, looks like it’s going pretty well. Like we said before, there were a lot of clear cuts out in here, previous timber harvest and see if I can turn those [layers, referring to map] on in a minute here. We’re going to be really interested, when you look at an old clear cut that was done, you know in the 60s or 70s, that’s just crazy thick with small trees that are all the same size, I’m really curious to see how the clear cut did here with bringing fire down through. How many of those trees survive? Also importantly, what the forest is going to look like a few years from now when the trees that were killed die? Then we’ve got to think about getting back into this landscape and either burning it again or somehow dealing with all that dead material so kind of long, drawn-out firing operation here. I’m gonna just bring up a another quick image for y’all
Zeke Lunder 04:50
One of the things that gets done on fires like this is a progression map. And there it is. And I gotta give a shout out to the poor GIS person that suffered through making this because they’re not easy to make. But just kind of a color coded map showing day by day how this fires unfolded. So you can see kind of like the green are older, yellows are newer and reds are the most recent. So you can see really how the fire came back down. This north slope on Waterman Ridge took a long time to get down there, it’s a messy fire and messy map. And then it came across here and it ran up this canyon in a matter of a couple of days. And we can see also how at the same time that that was happening, the crews were firing and getting depth on this north slope to buffer the fire coming out in the cross. So that worked. Pretty. Pretty amazing amount of firing work so far anyway. So I’ll turn that off [layer, referring to map]
Zeke Lunder 06:22
Okay, so now account for the story that we’ve all been waiting for, right? On this fire is: Where’s all that smoke coming from? Is it out of control? So if we come up to the top of the drainage that got fired, they fired this whole mid slope road system, these dark red lines are completed burnouts, then kind of lost control of it a little here. And it went up the hill. The plan was to fire it out here. And there was kind of a slop over here. And it ran up this slope. And at some point, it spotted over this ridge towards Trinity Village a couple days ago and became established in the head of, I think it’s Hawkins Creek. So over the past couple of days, the big blow ups we’ve been seeing here are the fire that was kind of a little spot here, yesterday, burned out about 800 acres here. Pushed the ridge, a ton of airtanker work got done on this divide kind of between Danny and Trinity village. And then yesterday, more burning in there. So last night at midnight. This red [on map] is the head of the drainage above Trinity Village. And then the orange lines here are the drone from late last night. So maybe two in the morning or something.
They’ve got this road here prepped and I can’t tell if they’re doing work to bring it down to the road or not. It looks like maybe you know, considering that this is where it’s mapped at midnight, and they had this dozer line down through here. And that didn’t hold. So it’s hard to tell what’s going on here if they used a drone to kind of bring the fire down a little towards this road or not. But that’s kind of the key thing now, whether or not they can hold this mid-slope road. It’s tough. We’ve talked about how rollout on steep slope, it makes it challenging when you’ve got a whole bunch of fire uphill and snags and stuff falling and rolling down the hill on steep ground like this. It can be really tough to hold a mid-slope line. So we’ll see how that goes.
There’s also a planned dozer line down through here [map]. The fire has pushed through that zone. We see some dozer line shown on the map here. The good news is that it hasn’t breached this dozer line over on the ridge. And as I said before, this is a 2015 fire here [on map], Happy Fire [#HappyFire]and then down here we’ve got the 2021 Monument Fire [#MonumentFire]. So the fire is kind of hemmed in a bit by the 2015 fires. Probably it’s got quite a bit of fuel in it being seven years old.
So that does buy a little comfort as far as the fire getting down into here. So good news so far is they’ve had two days of pretty active burning, and it hasn’t breached the big box. It’s still inside the plan of containment. But the bad news is it’s burning down towards Charity Village. And also the interesting thing here is when we look at how slowly the fire has been moving down slope on some places, you know, 100 feet a day versus what’s happening right now, it’s moving quickly down the slope.
And so kind of from a fire behavior standpoint, what I like to do is just, if the weather hasn’t changed, your rule of thumb is that the fire today would do the same thing it did yesterday. And so you see, the last 24 hours the fire spread, you know, three quarters of a mile or more, like in here up to this tip from here is mile and a quarter [referring to map on video]. So what that tells you is that if the weather stays the same, the fire is going to get down here soon. But you never know what’s gonna happen with the weather. What the smoke is going to do. I didn’t have time this morning to look at inversion forecast or anything else. But I’ll put up some resources if I can on weather. That’s the sitch there.
Zeke Lunder 11:23
Regarding the Rum Creek Fire, we’re headed into some very hot dry weather. All in all, the main thing to say about this is that it’s good that so far the last couple days, the fire has stayed in this bigger containment area. And that’s great because a ton of work went into making this box prepping it, firing it, holding it. So far so good on that. Okay, we’re gonna fly up to Rum Creek in Oregon [#RumCreekFire]
Zeke Lunder 12:12
So same thing on this fire as last one. We’ve got bright red is new fire growth and active heat. Yellow is cooling off, white lines are yesterday’s and the day before yesterday’s perimeters.
So in places where you see your white line on the edge of the fire, it means that that fire is not moved there. Not a lot of growth on this fire. We’ll start here down at Galice looking down the river. We can talk a minute about the big picture strategy here.
About a week ago, we loaded up the Taylor Creek Fire bulldozer lines, and saw the old bulldozer lines from the Taylor Creek Fire. And I guess that that was probably going to be the box for this fire just because there’s weren’t a lot of good options between the river and here. And there’s a reason that dozer lines get put in the same place over and over on big fires as the landscape really dictates where your opportunities are for fire suppression. We also thought that they’d probably do some indirect fire out along this ridge here [referring to map in video version] because the main mid-slope road that they have to work with just wasn’t in a great location and it didn’t seem like it was far enough away from the fire that they’d be able to use it before the fire got there. So that looks like what’s unfolding.
These kinds of squiggles of fire we see here on the west flank [map], on the southwest flank, this is all firing. They’ve come out along this road and along this dozer line and they’re putting fire on the ground. And so yesterday, or the day before yesterday, really the night before last, they started burning this top of the hill here on Mount Peavine. and then yesterday or last night they’ve brought fire down along here and we didn’t have complete dozer line mapping here we just have the mapping from the last fire if you’re if you’re watching this and if you’re working on the in the mapping shop up there, it’d be great if you guys could upload your event-geodatabase to the FTP site because then people like we can use it.
Anyway working on firing this, we’ll come around the fire in anti-clockwise fashion. So starting off at Galice, the fire hasn’t moved at all in past two days, downriver of Galice on this flank and then up here [map] it’s spread just a little but pretty much this is all cooling off. The fire is backing down to the river on the other side here, and I don’t know what the strategy is there, if they’re gonna let it back to the river, or if they have crews in there, I don’t really have I don’t have a lot of tactical Intel. Part of that is because I slept in and didn’t get up and read the IP. I did find the incident action plan for this. So I’m glad it’s nice when the team’s post that in public way.
So coming along here above Indian Mary Park, there’s a little bit of spread down in this gully, I think that’s the bottom of Stratton Creek, there’s a little spread. But above that it’s tied into the road here and this hasn’t spread. And the last day, there’s a bunch of heat in there, but it’s not spreading.
This whole flank of the fire is looking really good. Actually, it’s hasn’t spread. As you go up here, where they fired off of roads and there’s handline it looks like looks good until you get to the top here. And then there’s a little bit of spread. This is in the head of Stratton Creek and on the backside is McNabb Creek. So this is yesterday’s growth [on map].
It looks like it’s kind of burned-out-to-the-edges clear-cut. So it’s pretty good news on this whole flank is really hasn’t done a lot of growth, the growth that has done is in areas where you have steep gullies and stuff and they haven’t quite been able to get in there. Still a little bit growth here on the North Slope of this. I mean this, this curvy road tells you something about the character of the country, sometimes these maps don’t really do the terrain justice. But it’s pretty steep ground. But so far so good on this flank. All in all, like when we look at kind of this whole northeast flank [map], not a lot of spread in the last 24 hours. You know, it’s kind of tied in on the ridge here hasn’t moved. and then here on Rainy Falls Trail, there’s a dozer line out through here…
Zeke Lunder 17:14
…and it looks like the strategy is to kind of take it down, downhill through here. Coming back to a Rainy Falls Trail, everything’s still cold on the side, going down the river. And then we’ve seen continued spread here down into Rum Creek proper, and pretty slow spread. But like yesterday, down to the bottom here, don’t know what they’ve got going on down in the creek itself. We talked a bit about this East Fork rub Creek and how they put gazillion gallons retardant on this flank and held it up. And they’re still a little spread over here. And it’s hard to tell if this spread in East Fork here, if that’s what exactly it’s doing, it’s kind of like bumping into kind of this young stand.
So they’re scattered heat outs, just scattered growth here along this flank, and with the accuracy of the mapping, it’s hard to tell if that’s like firing out to this road, or not, can’t really tell, then we’ve got this kind of area in here [map] where it’s spread quite a bit. And it’s like we talked about earlier, it’s kind of a regular interval, it’s spread this far, the day before, and it spread this far the next day.
We had talked about whether or not they would be able to use this mid-slope road. And the answer is maybe, maybe depending on fire growth, you know, they may be able to use quite a bit of that mid-slope road. But you know, in some places it has already been pushed. So, you know, it’s likely that they can kind of fire through here [map], but then they’ve you know, it’s already crossed that road. So I think the strategy is likely that they’re going to try to use that road and then tie those or line up this ridge to what’s already been fired.
So as we’ve talked about quite a bit with indirect attack, it’s kind of like, your plan A might be that we’re gonna, use this mid slip road, we’re gonna fire it where we can. And then you have to kind of adjust as Oh, that didn’t work out over here, or the fire is moving faster than we thought or the fire is moving slower. And there’s kind of rules of thumb for how fires behave, you know, for given fuels, given slopes. But all it takes is an unexpected wind event to really throw that all out the window or one spot fire.
The science kind of serves us for planning and it advises the tactics here. The operations folks can say like, okay, the fire spread a quarter mile yesterday. It’s in that range. It’s gonna take four days to get to here. So we have time to spend three days putting in a dozer line. But then that all might go out the window and it might spread that, you know, three-days-worth of growth in one long distance spot that gets established. So there’s some questions, people want to know about how a fire like this gets organized and how we manage something like this.
Zeke Lunder 20:33
All right, here’s transportation map for today, for this fire [#RumCreekFire].
Zeke Lunder 20:42
This is kind of one of the standard map products on the fire. People need to know how to get to the fire, which roads to drive, and where the drop points are, etc. And so, you know, anyone who’s out here as a driver, or anything else is gonna get this fire map.
Zeke Lunder 21:06
So this has got divisions on it [map on video]. And basically, what showing you is that like everything kind of between the river and the river, is one division. And then on the other side there’s actually there’s two divisions, we got Division W down here. And so you got division break, right here, division breaks are like parentheses. And so this is Division W, Division Whiskey. And then this is Division Alpha (A) from this parenthesis here, around to the river.
But their geographic features often, so if it’s a creek, you share the break somewhere on the creek. But that means that whole creek is kind of division break. So the way this is organized is Division Alpha here has resources assigned to them. They may have Task Force leaders and task forces, water tenders and engines and a functional group of firefighting resources, maybe there’s some dozers in there. And then you can have strike teams within the task force. And the whole idea is that this division, group supervisor doesn’t, they might have 300 people working on their division, but they only have to talk to you know, five or six of them.
Zeke Lunder 22:40
One thing that’s kind of looks difficult about this fires, they’ve got three different three or four Incident Command teams. And they’ve got ODF team, they’ve got a State Fire Marshal team that’s working on structure protection. They got a lot going on, you look at the incident action plan, and there’s a lot of people on there. And that can be really difficult. If you have, you know, four bosses. So I’d be curious to talk to someone who’s out there about how that’s how that’s working out, like how they have it broken down how they can know if, if there’s a kind of a clear boundary, I haven’t seen anything on the maps of like, if there’s one teams running this part or one teams running that part.
But when you hear that things are in Unified Command, often that that means that things are a mess. Especially in California, where you’ve got like Cal Fire and US Forest Service on the same fire and you say this Unified Command. It’s really hard to have unified command when you’ve got two agencies that have really radically different land management objectives. So I’m curious to hear about how this has gone with this many people you know, this is like a 13,000 acre fire and it’s got three or four teams on it. And, that’s a lot of overhead. So we’ll hear more about that right. What else to say I want to show you guys what an IEP looks like. Someone shared the IEP for this I gotta find it.
Zeke Lunder 24:40
IEPs are the incident action plan. And so basically on the fire, there’s a planning section and the planning section’s job is to figure out what’s going on. Work with the operations people to figure out what the operations the firefighting people need and help them get it. So everyday then there’s Incident Command Action Plan, right. So the planning section, they produce this document. This document is 59 pages. And then they make a bunch of copies and then go out in the field has it.
So basically, we’ve got a federal incident command team. We’ve got Oregon Department of Forestry team, and we’ve got state fire marshal team and the State Fire Marshal usually works on kind of structure defense. So the IEP lists the incident objectives. So everyone on the phone knows what they’re trying to get done. And then they’ll have a list of who’s in charge of what. So they’ve got a couple pages here because you’ve got several teams. So you got three incident commanders here on this. I’ve never seen this before. Three teams on a 13,000 acre fire. Now the reason is because this fire has got potential and it’s threatening, it’s bad weather. It’s threatening. A lot of occupied area. Like we said there’s a lot of overhead here.
So nice thing about the IEP is it’s got everything you need to know as a crew boss. You got weather forecasts in here made by a dedicated National Weather Service fire trained meteorologist. So persistent hot and dry conditions will continue again today with light and variable winds this morning, you can expect north northwest this afternoon, smoke remains a key player in overall conditions. Clearing smoke this afternoon means instability will build and critical fire weather can be expected between 3pm and 7pm. Near critical conditions will remain on Fridays, a dry cold front passes the area and afternoon bringing gusty northwest winds after the front passes through humidity and temperature moderate Friday night into Saturday morning.
So the weather forecaster works with the fire behavior forecaster. And smoke cover will continue to be the most influential factor determining fire behavior. If the smoke clears out expect aggressive upslope fire spread with short crown runs likely and continuous fuel. So the thing about this is they’re saying Hey, watch out for uphill runs? Well, the fire is kind of sloped out in a lot of places, meaning that it’s already on top of the hill, especially on this side of the fire. This this perspective, I think can helps you see the terrain here.
And, and also like to see that if the fire was kind of more aggressively moving that potentially, the plan would be to hold it in this whole watershed. You know, it’s tough to pick up a fire kind of mid-slope and the steep watershed. So far, so good. The way it’s spreading here in Rum Creek, like it’s not unlikely they would have to build this whole box out. So there’s but there’s only a few places on the fire really where you have this potential for big upslope run. So this Run Creek side of it is one.
But at the top here, this is already kind of run to the top of the hill. And over here, we’re talking about Northwest winds and strong upslope runs. But you can see that the fires are already on top of the hill. So there’s not a lot of places here that the fire, you know, can maybe run upslope here [map]. But then you’re on the backside of the mountain and kind of sheltered from the winds. So when I see them say strong potential for upslope runs. There’s some places where that could happen. But a lot of the fires are already fairly high on the slope. For this to kind of escape and run uphill. It needs more of a southwest wind. Right here we’re looking kind of from the southwest. So that’s one thing that this fire has in its favor right now. It’s just that it’s kind of some of the critical areas that are already on top of the hill. And so the potential for big upslope runs is kind of moderated by that, by that fact. If we had a whole bunch of fire down in here, where it had alignment where the northwest wind was going to blow it straight up a hill. That’s more of a concern. Okay, so back to the forecast.
Zeke Lunder 29:43
“Spotting has been observed up to two miles under the most extreme conditions.” All right. ERCs are the general flammability of the vegetation. And it’s kind of an index it looks at fuel moisture and temperature and predicted humidities so ERC is high obviously, it’s hot it’s dry and they say that it’s the trajectory supposed to level off until more moderate conditions come this weekend “the live fuels are extremely stressed and will keep drying out.” I’ll share the link here the IP in the comments
Zeke Lunder 30:57
there’s a link in the comments [see YouTube video] a link where you can get the IP and maps and stuff for this fire. Anyway, they [fire weather forecast] say expect flanking north in Degraves Creek that’s kind of the top of the fire. Conditions for indirect land construction on the kind of east flank the fire should be favorable if smoke cover persists as conditions deteriorate, they expect some aggressive fire behavior. “The burnout Long Stratton Creek is expected to hold, well some fire in the drainage between Stratton Creek and upper Stratton Creek is most concerning for the division to see uphill spread.” And then on the west side of the fire, they “expect to see some backing into potential spotting across the Rogue River to the north. Ridge top winds out of the Northwest should be favorable to push fire back on itself. And they’ll see steady train driven driven up word growth towards the Western lines. They expect the conditions to be favorable for burnout.” Okay, so just real quick to look at the rest of the IP you get into safety message and then straight into these assignment lists. So it shows you the division and if you have the map you can see the Division A is everything and kind of Rum Creek. And it shows you who’s out there. We’ve got a hotshot crew, another hotshot crew, we’ve got a type two contract crew…
Zeke Lunder 32:44
We’ve got six 20-person crews on this division, hand crews we’ve got six engines, bunch of overhead, heavy equipment boss, taskwork leader, falling module. That’s just the first page. You got a chipper, some skidgeins, some dozers, some water tenders, some ENPs.
So anyway, in the morning, you get your IEP you see where you’re going. And then you go and talk to Division A and they tell you where you’re gone. Division II same thing got some engines got some crews. 106 people in that division, 147 division people in Division A. It’s like we said all those people report back to the Division Supervisor. So like, all these engines are going to report to you know, often to a strike team leader or taskforce leader or something like that. So, it’s handy information, I like it because you can look up and see you know where your friends are, and call them up and say hey, what’s happening on Division Alpha.
Some teams don’t publish this. Some teams are like all there’s cellphone numbers in here. It’s confidential information. I like when they do I think it’s this public information is we’re paying for all these people. And especially as a journalist, it’s really handy to know if I want to go back later and reconstruct how something happened. It’s handy. They also have in here, radio frequencies. If you if you have a scanner, you can get on there and key them in. Anyway, there’s a lot of info and the IEP and the produce this every day. So planning section keeps busy and makes copy, the clerical vendor makes lots of copies.
Zeke Lunder 34:47 Questions and Answers During Livestream
All right. I think that’s enough. I’ll answer a couple questions and then please share this. Share this video. They get posted to our YouTube channel after the live stream. And we don’t have a lot of followers in South Western Oregon, so it’s kind of a new fire for us. But if this helped more for you share it and consider giving us a donation at the-lookout.org.
Someone asked if there’s concerns about pushing it south and east. As we’ve talked about a little bit before, it’s nice to have this old fire scar here. So we’re looking at it here with north up, we’ve got this whole scar down here that is only four years old, that will likely if it did get in there, it hasn’t really been spreading this way much. If it does get in here, that will by some advantage likely spreading east. There’s just kind of this active area right in the middle here. And everything else is looking pretty good. So you know, next day or two, them wrapping this is important. And that northwest wind is a little concerning. But it is good that the most active fires kind of you know, we kind of say this kind of tucked in like so the head of this drainage is kind of you know, it’s a little bit protected. And that is kind of behind the ridge of the winds, the forecast winds are coming this direction. It’s good that this isn’t right in the wind, you know, there’s also a fire scar out here that we’re not showing on our maps, this area burned nine years ago. And so there’s a bunch of clear cuts in here from the salvage from that fire. And that aircraft are really effective. In these wide open clear cuts. The problem is that clear cuts are also places that spot fires can get established in that kind of grass and Fern and everything. But all in all things could be worse. They’re making good progress on that flank. And it’s the highest priority because of the communities out to the east.
Zeke Lunder 37:17 More Livestream questions
Explain the land management philosophy of Cal fire and Forest Service. The main difference between CalFire and the US Forest Service is CAL FIRE doesn’t own land. CAL FIRE protects private timberland for the most part, US Forest Service owns the land, and they don’t all see fire as being a bad thing for the land. There’s places where fires are meeting resource objectives and that it’s not always bad to do a big indirect burnout from a resource management standpoint. So the Forest Service has to after the fire they have they still own the land and they still have to manage it.
CalFire doesn’t own the land. And so they put out the fire and they leave. But really CAL FIRE has evolved as the fire department for the commercial timber landowners through the CAL FIREs the fire department in California for private lands in unincorporated areas for the most part. And they really, they work for the timber companies. And so timber companies don’t want a big box when there’s a fire, timber companies want you to come put the fire out and minimize impacts to their Timberlands. And US Forest Service will oftentimes we just don’t have that, that luxury. Once a fire is well established, oftentimes, the direct attack isn’t going to work anymore.
But the so when you get on a fire that’s half CalFire and half US Forest Service, and it’s burning equally on Forest Service and private Timberlands. Oftentimes CAL FIRE has a lot of pressure politically to go more aggressively to try to put the fire out and often the Forest Service doesn’t want to do that because they already have a plan that’s going to work. And oftentimes that indirect, people are using indirect attack, backing off to a bridge building a big line and firing it because they don’t expect direct attack to work.
So there’s two different philosophies there. And when you’re on a fire where the two different groups are trying to work together, it comes off and comes to a head and nobody’s happy. And we will get more into that. I think I’ve got a video up on here somewhere about checkerboard. If you look on if you kind of Google or look at YouTube, I think you’ve done something about the checkerboard. Or else I’ll try to find where we talked about that.
But in California and especially here in Oregon, we’ve got this checkerboard land ownership, where every other section you can kind of see it on here [map on video]. Every other section of land is either privately owned or in this case, Bureau of Land Management. It makes it really hard to have kind of a unified strategy for land management when you’ve got every other section owned by the Feds or owned by the private company, we’ve got the same thing to California in Northern California.
Coming down here towards Redding. See, here’s Mount Shast, the i5 (hwy 5, on map), you can see we’ve got this checkerboard of ownership. And then like out here you can see here’s checkerboard ownership that was burned in 2012. And private timber companies came in clear cut salvaged everything and the Forest Service left it alone. And so just that’s a good picture of the kind of the radical contrast between land management philosophies is that the private timber landowners exist to grow timber, and timber is their stock that they’re growing, that they’re counting on getting interest from in the form of annual growth. So if they have a fire, they’re gonna slick it off and plant a bunch of trees and try again. And the Forest Service here isn’t really this isn’t an area that the Forest Service is emphasizing for timber management. So they were fine with just leaving it. Right.
So if we have a fire now that burns out in this country, Forest Service isn’t as worried about threat to their timber investment, because they manage this land for wildlife, they manage this land for watershed values, recreation, and timber is just one element in their management. So we worked on Hers Fire over here 2018 And it was burning this kind of patchwork of private and federal lands. And there was just a lot of tension there on the strategy. And even once the strategy was in effect of people in the different agencies wanting to implement their own version of how they thought things should be done, which just doesn’t work when you’ve got top down organization.
That’s why I say having three ICs on a fire can be really difficult. Sometimes it works well. But the land, just like the way the land dictates fire behavior. The land also dictates ownership and management objectives and it can get really heated.
Zeke Lunder 42:20 More Livestream Questions
Is it realistic to try to be a money making timber company in California as landscapes sits and temperatures have shifted? Good question. Great question. timber companies have taken huge losses in the past decade. We talked about that in their Dixie fire and forestry video, and other videos. There’s a lot to say about that topic. You know, this conversation about climate change adaptation is really unfolding here. Down in the Camp Fire  here where I live, private timber companies have kind of abandoned some of their holdings in like in Concow Basin here.
Private timber company owned a lot of land here in Concow. And it burned in 2000. It burned in 2008. They replanted after 2008. Those trees got killed in 2018. So some places out here been planted in burned and planted and burned. And so then the company has to think well, do we want to plant it again? Or should we just walk away and so in this case, the company walked away from a couple of 1000 acres of their timberland down here, they’re just not gonna replant. Because it’s clear to them that they’ll never grow trees old enough to survive in a place where the fire happens every 10 to 20 years.
Where I’m from here around Lake Almanor, where the Dixie fire was, is a very map showing the red is where the trees are all killed and green is some are some trees survived. And you can just see that all these young stands out here all these clear cuts. They all got totally barbecued in like two days of fire spread.
So it is a good question what does it take to have fire resilient forestry or fire and forestry compatible? And can these companies survive in these dry places as timber companies without using prescribed fire to create more resilient stand conditions? One of the big takeaways for people is just that our forestry and silviculture is based on old expectations on science that was developed in a wet climate in a cool century. And we developed these kind of stocking levels that we thought like a place with this climate where this soil should be able to support X amount of board feet per year. And then foresters have decided to plant and maintain that many trees per acre, to kind of grow what they think is the maximum amount of fiber, they can grow on that acreage. And oftentimes, those numbers aren’t compatible with surviving drought, growing trees at a wide enough spacing that the drought doesn’t stress them out, and they’ll get killed by beetles or surviving wildfire.
So much of the way the land has been kind of parsed out and planted and planned, is based on these old kind of models of forestry that are kind of breaking down now. This is kind of plantation forestry in California, around Chico [map]. And this fire right here 2012, burned up like 25,000 acres of private timberland in you know, better part of a day. So lots of kind of hard lessons. The problem now is like this whole area is going to be the same age and therefore also susceptible to a fire for its entire life, basically, unless we, so we’re starting to plant less trees per acre on a lot of these lands. But I think until we get fire back into the equation with forestry, in dry places, we’re going to continue to see, you know, just incredible losses in these private Timberlands.
Zeke Lunder 46:37 More Livestream Questions
Does Cal Fire, participate in any preservation or land restoration? Yeah, they do some work with fuels, and they’re trying to scale up their prescribed burning. But the fire seasons of the last like five years have just really taxed. All the fire organizations when you’ve got like a fire season where people are gone for four months straight, and then they are kind of fighting fires for eight months out of the year. There’s not a lot of “mojo” left in November, for prescribed burning people want to go see their families, they want to go get counseling, they want to use their time off that they didn’t get to use for the whole fire season. So expecting active duty firefighters to be the “restoration army” is not panning out, we really do need a whole new agency just to focus on putting good fire on the ground, because it’s just not CAL FIRE’s mission. And it’s a lot to expect to them. They’ve already, you know, they’re already doing an incredible amount of work.
Citizens vigilante group of firefighters as needed. It’s happening. Prescribed Burn associations are building a lot of capacity. And one of the leaders of our local, some prescribed burning in Northern California said their vision is that we just quietly build this cadre of really qualified prescribed burners on the private side, the community level, and the firefighters all you know, a decade from now, after just having their heads down, getting kicked in the ass by fire. They look up one day and they realize that there’s this whole army of prescribed burners that are ready to do the work.
Fire isn’t the only threat to force anymore. The trees in Southern Oregon are quickly being eaten and killed by beetles.
Yes, it’s really happening. And part of that is because, you know, you look at these clear cuts. What’s interesting, a lot of times isn’t the clear cuts, it’s what’s happening between them. And when you’ve got land that’s being managed, like, “Hey, we’re going to come and clear cut this in 20 years,” it might not make sense to thin it, or otherwise manage it. And so we’ve got some really thick conditions in the forest that aren’t already logged. And so beetles are kind of having their way especially on a lot of the public lands that are even more overstocked and the private lands. But yeah, the beetles that kind of spared the far northern Sierra and the kind of massive beetle kills of the past decade or they’re getting here now.
Zeke Lunder 49:22 Livestream Question
Someone says they’re watching in Colorado and Beatles hit first pretty bad. They spelled Beatles like the band.
Zeke Lunder 49:35 More Livestream Questions
Stands that we’re logged in replant are all the same age. Were the worst hit? Yeah. Look how much of that private lands been recently cut. What role is desertification combined with climate change playing in our recent drought temperature difference in a clear cut versus forest canopy. Yeah. Great question. Let me see I’ve got something here to bring up
Zeke Lunder 50:07
Here’s an interesting look at the fire to Rum Creek fire. This is a satellite image from two days ago. And it shows severity for Rum Creek, and you can see that there’s a lot of green where the trees aren’t killed. And then you can see where the fire made, its bigger runs, the high severity and all the trees being killed. These images aren’t great for telling you what’s going to happen over the next year or two. But they’re interesting in seeing how the kind of macro level fire behavior… here’s a kind of view that sees through the smoke. So what I was gonna say with that is that question about desertification and effects of clear cuts on the moisture. It’s interesting. So I use the satellite tools a lot. And there’s some algorithms that people have built that use the different channels of the satellite imagery as kind of a soil moisture index. And you can really see, I mean, it’s not rocket science, that clear cuts are hot and dry. And so when you look at Northern California, there has been a significant change in the kind of percentage of the landscape that is not getting shade, right?
Zeke Lunder 51:47
Up here around Shingletown (California), this is that fire that I showed you that it all burned in a short amount of time. But yeah, you see all the clear cuts here, are just really dry? And so when you start wondering about like, what impact does that have on this area here between clear cuts? You know, compared to if this was all shaded forest? Or what kind of evaporative loss are we seeing in these adjacent stands? There’s people who know more about this than I do. I’m not a licensed forester. But I really do enjoy checking out kind of these landscape scale patterns. And using these tools, we’ve can try to work out landscape-scale fire hazard.
And clear cuts are interesting, because the risk profile in them changes over time. You know, at first, they’re kind of a fuel break, they’re just a big opening, one of the problems we have is just that California has had stocking standards that forced you to plant way more trees than you might need to have a healthy forest. And so then the companies have to come and thin the trees when they are seven to 12 years old. And then there’s nowhere to take all that material [slash], so they leave it in the woods.
So then you’ve got kind of, in drier forests, you’ve got several years where you’ve got a bunch of red [dry] slash in the woods. And if you’ve done then a whole bunch of acreage, it’s easy to have a fire that spots in the slash and then spots in the next unit. At some point, the stands you know, they shade in and in the Northwest, they become a lot less flammable because there’s nothing really growing under them.
But kind of when you look at the landscape scale, we’re always interested in like, how does that patchwork across landscape scale affect the hazard of future fire. And like up here [map], we’ve got this is the Fountain Fire can’t really see it, I guess. But this whole area here that burned 30 years ago, in kind of logged over ground that now has all these trees that are contiguously the same age in a place that’s got you know, power lines, a major highway and slopes that lend themselves to fire spreading uphill. So that forest management history definitely affects kind of landscape scale flammability in interesting ways.
Thinning gets rid of beetles, quails love clearings? Is there enough subject to make a whole video on Cal Fire forestry and BLM and how they do or don’t work well together?
Yeah, there’s plenty. Every fire that you have is a story about the difficulty of unified command. And we’ll see if we can get to that.
Quail don’t like cats.
All right, well, not gonna talk too much more about that. Okay, well, we’ll keep talking about if you do want to keep this conversation going. Like I said, support The Lookout, we’ll keep doing it. This time of year, I don’t get a lot of non-wildfire videos made. But I’ve got some stuff in the pipe, go back and check out our things like our interview with Jim Klump. We talk about the Fountain Fire, and about the McKinney fire, the precursor to the McKinney Fire.
We’re trying to tell stories of people that have these insights into the big picture in the landscape. If you’re one of those kinds of people, reach out. If you got stories from a career in forestry, and fire…We want to tell stories around here. Check out the Jim Klump video, check out the last 10 minutes where we take one of his stories and really tell it on maps. That’s the kind of stuff we want to do. So if you got some good stories about the big picture, based on your experience, reach out, you can get me on the-lookout.org Thanks everyone.