Forestry Friday…The Fire Salvage Begins

This fire season in California has been epic in the worst possible way. Not only did we have the state’s largest recorded wildfire, the Ranch Fire, but we’ve had the most destructive fire, the Camp Fire. During any prior year the Carr fire would have been the most destructive fire in California, but this year has been exceptionally bad for wildfires.

I was out checking in on one of our salvage logging contractors on the Carr Fire last week. The timber salvage operations are well under way. Click on the gallery of images to read about it.

Since I wrote this post the rains began in earnest. Our fire season has come to brutal end.

30 thoughts on “Forestry Friday…The Fire Salvage Begins

  1. From the wet east coast of Canada, these enormous fires are hard to fathom. I appreciate your pictures and information. I have spent time in California many times and always loved it. Sad to see so much devastation. Stay safe and thanks for your blog.

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  2. My prayers go out to everyone and every animals affected by these devastating fires. Forest fires are so very sad because of their destruction. Thankfully, we can go in and save the trees from total devastation in some cases. Very interesting post, Tim.

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  3. Thanks for this photo-montage that explains about the effects of the fire. This summer here on Northern Vancouver Island where I live, we had many forest fires this summer even in parts of which are known as the “fog belt”. Short of the devastation to the forests, the intense smoke , etc., what troubled me most was how many people criticized the forest service so severely, saying they should have responded quicker, etc. Yet they were working to the maximum even with much added support from forest companies, etc.. Constantly new fires kept popping up due to a severe lightning storm weeks earlier. I believe forest service did their best. Thanks Tim, for your own work in this regards.

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  4. I am so sorry about the devastation in your state. I have worried and wondered if you and Mary were safe from the fire area. It is a horrible site and I can not imagine the grief felt over the loss of life and property. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by the fires.

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    • It’s been a horrible fire year. In fact our worst ever. The town of Paradise and the surrounding communities were so nearly wiped out. The loss of life, homes, business and pets is absolutely staggering. Now the rainy season is here. We went straight from summer to winter. It’s not making things easy on anyone, but at least fire season is over. Mary and I have been safe and weren’t directly threatened by the fires.

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  5. Would it be selective or clear cut seems on portions the fire hasn’t crowned (still some green on the canopy) would be best to leave the survivors alone as seed trees. Great post by the way!

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    • We leave trees we believe will survive and they do provide seed. However, good seed crops don’t come every year so we replant with seedlings to ensure tree re-establishment. We try to remove most of the dead and dying trees. Trees completely burned or with dead crowns are already beginning to deteriorate. Trees with a lot of scorching on the trunks, but with green crowns will usually die during the next season or two so we remove them. Trees with little or no scorching will usually survive and are not cut. For a few years after a fire, more trees die off because of the large bark beetle populations that result from all the dead timber. Also, many of the surviving trees blow down over the first couple of winters because they no longer have the protection of the surrounding forest that was killed by the fire. We try to complete as much of the salvage logging in one season. This means we have to make our best decision as to which trees will survive. Afterward, we replant the areas. We don’t want to re-enter a reforested area to remove trees that died later because we would damage the seedlings. It is a difficult balance.

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  6. Please post the effects of the rain on soil and ash movement. What will happen to stream flow and quality?

    Also, with all the timber salvage work are there enough mills to consume the material?

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    • We have already had heavy rain in the burns. In the intense burn areas the fire creates a hydrophobic layer the is impermeable to moisture. When the heavy rains come all the ash and soil above this layer is washed downstream into the watersheds. When the water flows over this layer and is concentrated in swales or ravines it cuts through the layer and creates gullys. The first year after a fire is by far the worst for erosion. The local agencies managing the lakes have prepared to capture the woody debris from the runoff with log booms. We have found and verified with research that in the areas we salvage log before the rain has less erosion. This is because the action of the equipment breaks up the hydrophobic layer and allows for better water penetration into the soil. However, this year’s fires were so large that we have barely impacted the area.

      There isn’t enough logging or mill capacity to digest all the wood from these fires. It’s far too much. It will take 2-3 years to harvest the dead timber. As we start harvesting the wood begins to deteriorate. The smaller trees go bad first and some species break down faster than others. As time goes by we will only harvest the larger trees, because the smaller ones have lost their value. It’s literally a race to save as much wood as we can. We won’t recover it all. The timber on the private lands will be harvested first, because we operate under the state forest practice rules which are fairly expeditious when it comes to harvesting dead trees. It is considered an emergency. Sadly, the federal rules are more cumbersome and the bureaucracy will cause the process to take far longer. we will likely only see a tiny fraction of the dead trees on federal land harvested at all.

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  7. You do know this is only on private lands. There is no activity on any Public forest land and very likely there will not be much. Fuel loads and resistance to control on public lands will be extreme for decades and the next fire will be worse.

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    • I know the salvage logging is on private land right now if that is what you mean. They are removing logs from the FS that were cut and decked during the fireline construction. I do expect them to remove some roadside hazard tree, but beyond that is anyone’s guess. I totally agree that if they don’t do something about the fuel loads this problem just gets worse.

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