Forum Index » General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion » California Rim Fire is getting BIG!


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jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Re: Re: Fire on 08/25/2013 15:29:38 MDT Print View

I've hiked through areas that have been burned, like Mt Hood or Three Sisters and it's still a nice hike. Only some of the areas burned. It's interesting to see how the burned areas recover.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Fire Disturbance on 08/25/2013 16:11:41 MDT Print View

"Isnt this the same general area that burned in 1987? If so then how did the undergrowth get so bad to allow this fire to take place? If fire is needed to stop big fires then why didn't it work?"

A natural fire disturbance typically clears out a lot of the brush/understory/young trees without killing many of the mature trees. It doesn't burn hot/long enough to kill the majority of the mature trees over huge tracts of land (normally but not as a rule). So for example redwoods get to be giants not because they live in an area that hasn't burned for 2000 years, but rather because they have survived many moderate fires.

Decades of fire suppression created a situation where there was a pent up fuel in the understory communities. This has enabled more intense/hotter fires which are capable of complete devastation to the forest including the mature trees. It has also enabled a lot more fires to get established, so the problem is both quantity and severity of fires. So once we allowed the fuel to accumulate we jeopardized the mature trees, even if the actual fire might be decades down the road. There are some ways out (manual clearing, natural rotting etc) but it's a bad situation and simply letting them burn now doesn't solve the problem (although it's probably the best we can do).

I don't know much about these specific fires, but it sounds like the mature trees in the area likely perished in the 1987 fire as a result of previous fire suppression efforts. Now with the mature trees gone the ecosystem system was in a vulnerable state since there isn't the same contrast/separation between the mature tree canopy and the younger understory. So any fire that comes along burns the whole enchilada until the forest can reach a climax state.

It's tough getting back to climax communities - which is one of the reasons why we shouldn't wreck them. Ecology is a complex and fascinating subject. With specific regard to fires, forests basically need to get lucky and avoid fires for a couple hundred years while they reach maturity - at which point the mature trees can hopefully endure fires. So this time around the forest made it to 25 years and then burned. Hopefully the 2013 - ???? period is long enough to let the forest mature.

That's a quasi-educated stab at this from a fire ecology viewpoint. Reality is unavoidably more complicated. Climate change is another factor that has the potential to amplify fires (from hotter/drier summers) and possibly would be causing severe complete devastation fires even if we had never suppressed fires.

Edited by dandydan on 08/25/2013 19:50:17 MDT.

Chris .
(cwb) - F

Locale: Los Angeles
climate change on 08/25/2013 16:38:05 MDT Print View

Climate change is a bunch of horse poop. Natural fires have happened since the beginning of recorded history. Some of them burning for months and years. Greenies stop allowing land to be cut or burned as necessary, and this is the result.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: climate change on 08/25/2013 17:25:20 MDT Print View

"Climate change is a bunch of horse poop. Natural fires have happened since the beginning of recorded history. Some of them burning for months and years. Greenies stop allowing land to be cut or burned as necessary, and this is the result."

Land owners are the ones that want fires supressed

The huge stands of beetle killed trees, possibly due to increased CO2 levels, are different from previous recent times.

Ahhhh... we have a global warming denier. This will be more of a problem 50 or 100 years from now so we won't care, we'll be dead, but our grandchildren will wonder why we didn't do more when we had a chance.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Fire Disturbance on 08/25/2013 17:34:15 MDT Print View

Interesting study done in the San Jacintos a few years back. Scientists estimated fires every 80 - 100 years, and the forest was healthy. But now with forest management the fires are disasterous due to the accumulated ground fuel, as Dan points out.

We have had serious damage in California forests over the past 20 years due to the bark beetle destruction -- drought makes trees vulnerable to the beetle. Root cause of drought is a huge debate that no one can prove at this point in time.

Chris .
(cwb) - F

Locale: Los Angeles
climate change on 08/25/2013 17:35:12 MDT Print View

Almost to a man, those who I have met or observed who claimed to be wonderful stewards of the environments are the worst litterbugs and deviants. While those are the most scorned as destroyers of the planet are usually the best stewards of it. Witness Surprise Canyon in Ca being destroyed by "hikers" or the trash from the CBD being cited for littering willfully right in front of a ranger.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Fire Disturbance on 08/25/2013 17:36:25 MDT Print View

"Root cause of drought is a huge debate that no one can prove at this point in time."

+1

Desert Dweller
(Drusilla) - M

Locale: Wild Wild West
Livestock on 08/25/2013 19:21:13 MDT Print View

I get real tired of people making blanket statements about grazing and ranching when they have no real life experience living it. Its insulting. My family ranched in California since the 1880s and did not over graze. Overgrazing is stupid cause there has to be good grass for the next years and the coming generations. Ranchers recognize that erosion and plant destruction hurts everyone. All good ranchers knew this and the practice was to rotate cattle and livestock into different areas to insure graze for both wildlife and cattle. And we worked darn hard doing it. It serves no purpose to overgraze for the current rancher and the future ones. Ranchers were the first managers of our lands and the forest service and government agencies came way afterwards. Apparently the few "bad" ranchers reputations is all people know about. A little history from Arizona...When the biggest and richest rancher in the world, Henry Hooker who had the largest and finest herds here in Arizona north of Wilcox, saw that an impending series of droughts were drying up what formerly was the best graze land in the world, he sold off and dispersed his herds and left. He was a smart business man and saw the climate changing. He was not an over grazing idiot, he knew if the land could not replenish itself then he would be shortly out if business. Rather than decimate the land he sold out.
I would like to think that somewhere now there are people willing to listen to the truth about our ranching history and their good stewardship of our lands, not all ranchers decimated every piece of land they grazed on!

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Livestock on 08/25/2013 19:48:23 MDT Print View

Climate Change
"Climate change is a bunch of horse poop. Natural fires have happened since the beginning of recorded history."
I don't think climate change scientists are arguing forest fires never existed until recently. Even if you think that humans have nothing to do with the rapid rate of climate warming (warm periods have happened historically, but warming this fast isn't normal and species won't be able to adapt quick enough), you can't argue we aren't putting out a ton of C02. Even if C02 has nothing to do with the warming, a full 25% of C02 gets absorbed by the ocean (cold hard fact) which creates carbonic acid (cold hard fact) which is what is causing ocean acidification (cold hard fact). This is a current and impending crises for the earth's oceans as it is killing off coral reefs, preventing mollusks and shellfish from crafting shells etc. So even if climate change is horse poop, we still need to stop emitting C02 or we're dealing with large scale ecological problems which are going adversely affect humanity. Be a part of the solution.

Livestock
I've probably read too much Dave Foreman and Ed Abbey to really have a fair and balanced view anymore. My earlier comments on grazing were broad, but I was referring to large scale/quasi-corporate grazing on public lands, not private ranches etc.

Livestock grazing can be done well when the ranchers have a genuine interest in preserving the land - which is often the case as you mention either through private ownership or shared use of public land by a small group of ranchers. The problematic side of grazing is when you get too many parties sharing public lands, which can lead to a "tragedy of the commons" situation where backing off and being responsible just opens the door for someone else to exploit the land.

Pine Beetles
The forest fire/climate change/pine beetle situation is complex. What we do know is that temperature has a huge effect on juvenille survival of pine beetles (Bentz and Bracewell, 2011). So as things heat up even 0.5-1 degree we get (1) highly increased over winter survival of pine beetle juveniles and (2) expanding distributions of pine beetles as they move their range further north. So climate change contributes to forest fires both directly (hotter, drier) and indirectly (increased fuel via pine beetles).

Edited by dandydan on 08/25/2013 20:17:37 MDT.

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Fire Disturbance on 08/25/2013 19:51:05 MDT Print View

Well expressed Dan.
Where I live here in N CA., the FS got stalled a few times in their effort to make communities a little fire resistant, by going in and thinning small trees and piling down trees where able around us, then in the Fall, burning the piles. Some environmental groups filed in courts to stop this, all it did was delay the work and cost tax payers money. We'll see if the work pays off.
Duane

steven franchuk
(Surf) - M
Re: California Rim Fire is getting BIG! on 08/26/2013 22:21:49 MDT Print View

"I thought the forest service encouraged fires to burn often to prevent these mega fires from happening."

Most national parks allow naturally caused fires to burn or implement controlled burns to keep the parks in a naturally place. This has been the yosemite policy since about 1970.

However in national forests it is typically unusual for the forest service to allow fires to burn. For the past 100 years forest fires were put out. Today national forests are starting to do controlled burns to try and restore the natural state of the forest. This has to be done very carefully due to the fuel load that has built up over the last 100 years. A few years ago a controlled burn north of highway 140 near yosemite valley got out of control and it took about a week to get it under control.

From Glacier point in august it is not unusual to see some smoke from small forest fires. Most of these fires are small and slowly burn along the forest floor. Very seldom do the naturally occurring fires burn entire trees.

The current fire started in a area with a lot dead wood on the the forest floor. That fuel created a large fire that reached the crowns of the trees which then burst into flames. Crown fires were very rare 150 years ago. Today they have become common while the slow forest floor fires have become rare.

"Isnt this the same general area that burned in 1987?"

I don't think so. I believe the 1987 fire burn mostly south of Highway 120 almost up to the east end of Yosemite valley. The current fire is mostly north of Highway 120 between the town of Groveland and Hetch Hetchy valley. Most of the trees burning in the current fire are quite large indicating that there has not be a big fire in the area for over 50 years.

"Now, since there are less cattle, sheep and goats grazing on public land the forest under stories have grown unimpeded for about a decade or more"

In a mature conifer forest grass doesn't grow on the forest floor and very few shrubs are pressent. There generally isn't enough light reaching the forest floor for grass and shurbs.

Historically (50 to 100 years ago) all the grazing activity in the area was in Hetch hetchy valley, yosemite valley and Tuolumne valley, buck medows and other naturally tree free areas. These were the only areas that had enough grass to support grazing animals. These areas either had too much snow or a very high water table that prevented fir forests from developing. The area burning now was never a major grazing area.

Edited by Surf on 08/26/2013 22:24:37 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: California Rim Fire is getting BIG! on 08/26/2013 22:27:34 MDT Print View

"I believe the 1987 fire burn mostly south of Highway 120 almost up to the east end of Yosemite valley."

This is totally incorrect.

--B.G.--

Jeremy B.
(requiem) - F

Locale: Northern California
Fire history map on 08/26/2013 22:51:58 MDT Print View

I believe this may cover the fire history:

https://sites.google.com/site/pyrogeography/Home/rim_firehist3.jpg

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Fire history map on 08/27/2013 08:50:39 MDT Print View

Interesting map

It looks like most of the surrounding area has burned since 1950

Inside the Rim fire boundary, most of the area has burned since 1987

This is inconsistent with the idea that fire supression is the problem

Mike Oxford
(moxford) - MLife

Locale: Silicon Valley, CA
Cabin gone on 09/04/2013 15:06:30 MDT Print View

Lost our cabin in the fire relatively early on, just outside of Groveland. Serious bummer ... built by my great-grandfather back in the 40s.

Last count I heard was 111 structures.

-mox

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Fire history map on 09/04/2013 15:42:22 MDT Print View

"This is inconsistent with the idea that fire supression is the problem"

What is the inconsistency?

Edited by greg23 on 09/04/2013 15:43:18 MDT.

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Cabin gone on 09/04/2013 18:00:08 MDT Print View

Sorry to hear that Mike. I met the Ross family next to MTR a few years ago, by Florence Lake. Neat history.
Duane

spelt !
(spelt) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: Livestock on 09/04/2013 18:30:42 MDT Print View

When the biggest and richest rancher in the world, Henry Hooker who had the largest and finest herds here in Arizona north of Wilcox, saw that an impending series of droughts were drying up what formerly was the best graze land in the world, he sold off and dispersed his herds and left. He was a smart business man and saw the climate changing. He was not an over grazing idiot, he knew if the land could not replenish itself then he would be shortly out if business. Rather than decimate the land he sold out.

Instead of scaling back operations to what the land could sustain, he sold out and left? That is not stewardship, that is turning your back and walking away. To steward means to care for. Obviously he did not care for the land as much as for his money.

Edited by spelt on 09/04/2013 18:32:28 MDT.

steven franchuk
(Surf) - M
Re: Cabin gone on 09/05/2013 16:58:10 MDT Print View

Sorry to hear about your cabin.

Today I hear on the new that they identified the cause of the fire. Apparently a hunter light a campfire and it gout out of control. they apparently know his name but have not released thaat. No word yet on what fines or penalties he faces.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Re: Fire history map on 09/05/2013 18:59:43 MDT Print View

"Interesting map

It looks like most of the surrounding area has burned since 1950

Inside the Rim fire boundary, most of the area has burned since 1987

This is inconsistent with the idea that fire supression is the problem

What is the inconsistency?"


Most of the area inside the Rim Fire area has burned since 1987.

The theory is, that since we supress fires, the current fires are worse, but since they all burned since 1987, this isn't correct.

Maybe even though the map says they burned since 1987, the fires only burned a little bit or something, so it's not clear. That's why I said "it's inconsistent".

Now, if the last time the area burned was before 1947 when the Smokey The Bear campaign started and we started supressing fires more vigorously, then that would be consistent with the theory that fire supression causes worse fires.