We awoke this morning to what we thought was another day of cloud cover. When we went out to air the dogs it was still dark and we could see an orange glow to the Southwest. We climbed into the truck to investigate only to discover it was far to the Southwest. When the morning light brightened the sky we could see the orange hue of smoke filtered light and ash was on everything. A fire blew up overnight in Tehama County and the smoke covered Shasta County by morning. It seems folks all over California woke up to the same and worse conditions. CalFire named this one the 3-4 Fire. Last count had it at 1,000 acres. It’s not the biggest fire. There’s one far worse threatening Vacaville. Say a prayer for the folks down there.
The Sacramento River Canyon caught fire today near Pollard Flat. Another fire and this one is near the Hirz Fire. This is the Delta Fire.
It started just after lunch and began building its own pyro-cumulus cloud right away. Just what we need here, another wildfire. Lamoine and other river communities are being evacuated.
With all the fires burning in California there has been a lot of discussion about logging to reduce forest fuel. Doing so makes our forests more fire resilient. There is fear among many people that logging of any kind will destroy our forest. The truth is the the fires are destroying our forests. This is a short video of such a logging operation from last year on the Lassen National Forest. The Forest Service prepared this project. Our company bought and logged the timber sale. The result is a healthier more resilient forest.
This morning the sky had an apocalyptic pall over it. Colors were shifted from the smoke filtered light. Ash had fallen on our property. Now our home isn’t close to the fire. We aren’t in any danger. Most of our friends are much closer. Many have had to evacuate. With Google Earth I was able to determine that we were 22 miles from the fire as the crow flies. That’s how far the ash had traveled.
Based on latest hot spot map the fire may have spread south of Highway 299 near Redding. This is a terrible development. Hopefully the firefighters can stop the spread. Fortunately, it didn’t reach the forecast high of 113 today. It just made it to 111. Nevernind, I just found out it did reach 113.
I was in the Trinities this week and there was thick smoke everywhere. It’s burning season in Northern California. We had quite a lot of rain in late November. I assumed that some agency was doing a large burn project. However, I couldn’t see where the smoke was coming from. It appeared to be drift smoke.
During my drive down from the mountains I heard a news report. They reported that smoke from the Thomas Fire was drifting up the coast. I checked Google Earth that evening and the smoke had drifted nearly 500 miles from the Thomas Fire in Southern California to north of Redding. The residue of so many homes and so much wildland was adrift in this smoke.
This story appeared on KREM2 in Spokane. I’m heartened to see a support for an active strategy to deal with the wildfire dilemma. In defiance of popular conventional wisdom that harvesting trees is a bad thing. Finally, using harvesting as a tool for healthier forests. It too long overdue in the minds of the public.
This article appeared in The Economist and sums up the need and benefit of thinning the forests of the Sierra Nevada. I’ve added a few comments about it below.
I really appreciate the discussion regarding water generation through thinning. I believe this is one of the least discussed benefits of practicing forestry in the West, but in California it’s one of the biggest benefits with our constant water deficits. Thinning the Sierra forests would generate an enormous amount of water for California.
When comparing the cost of controlled burning to mechanized thinning (logging) you can’t ignored the cost incurred when controlled burns get out of control. The cost differences between doing controlled burn and fighting out of control fire is enormous. I’m not saying don’t use controlled burning, but fire suppression costs need to be included when controlled burns get out of control. Controlled burning is one tool available, but cannot come close to solving the problem of all the overstock forests.
Commercial thinning that includes merchantable (larger) trees is the only economically sustainable way to accomplish the massive level of thinning that needs to be done. The author points out 52 trees per acre was the historic density of trees in the Sierra. Research has shown that the proper density for optimal growth in fully stock mature timber stands to be between 43 and 64 trees per acre depending on the size of the trees. If we remove 236 trees per acre to reach 64 trees per acre, then some of those trees have to be big enough to make a 2 x 4. If there is enough value in the larger trees, a timber company will pay the federal government to thin the forest instead of the government paying a contractor to clean up and dispose of the unmerchantable trees.
What’s the upside? We get healthy resilient forests that are more fire resistant. Wildfires that do start are less severe, and safer and easier to control. There is more water available to the state. The wood isn’t left to rot. It is used in wood products and to generate electricity. People doing these forest related jobs see an economic benefit, particularly in the rural communities. The practice is sustainable and wood is our great renewable resource.
Lastly, some folks are going to fret over the impacts of logging at that scale. I want you to know this, timber harvests are studiously planned to mitigate the potential negative impacts they could cause. Secondly, just imagine the negative effects of these mega-fires. I’ve seen them and their effects are staggering. I’ve yet to see one large burn ever have it’s negative impacts fully mitigated.