Forestry Friday … “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”

Trinity County, wildfire, smokeIt’s August in California, with our typical forecast for this time of year, “sunny with 100% chance of SMOKE!” Large forest fires are burning up and down the state. The smoke is inescapable.

smoke, smoky, air quality

I was in the Northern Sierra near Stirling City earlier in the week. Smoky there too.

Air quality is often terrible this time of year due to the wildfires. Lighting, drought, denser forests and changing fire fighting tactics have created conditions that foster massive wildfires. Resistance to harvesting timber on our federal forests has made it difficult to thin the National Forests. Thinning forests to reduce fuels isn’t being accomplished at the level that is needed. That in turn has caused the Forest Service to adopt a “manage the fire” approach to fire fighting. These fires burn at such higher intensity that the fire crews are forced to back way off in order to keep safe. Direct attack is nearly impossible. This makes the fires grow even bigger.

drought, wildfire, Trinity Lake

Drought is making our immediate problem much worse. Trinity Lake is somewhere back there.

Thinning these forests over large tracts of land would solve several problems. It reduces the amount of fuel that feeds these huge fires. It lowers the burn intensity of the fires making them easier to fight. Fewer trees on the landscape increases the ground and surface water by reducing demand on the water table. God knows we need more water in California. Trees have less competitive stress, which reduces tree mortality from drought and insect attack. With fewer weakened trees dying there is less dry, heavy fuel created in the form of snags and downed logs.

snag, forestry, wildfire

That snag is a lightening rod just waiting for a bolt.

In many ways were are loving these forests to death. The forests are set up to burn because we don’t want to manage them. Too many people don’t want any trees cut down. The conventional wisdom that “leaving the forest untouched” creates a healthy ecosystem is wrong. Would you not weed your garden? We are the stewards of these forests and it’s our responsibility to care for them. Otherwise, we are creating a forest of dead trees.

Looking toward the Trinity Alps.

Looking toward the Trinity Alps.

This is how the view is on a clear day.

This is how the view is on a clear day.

Bliss says after a smoky day in the woods there’s nothing like a dip in a cool mountain stream.

golden retriever, Bliss

A pool made for a puppy!

Bliss says, "much better."

Bliss says, “much better.”

Forestry Friday … Mountain Thunderstorms

Looking across Indian Valley at a mountain thunderstorm. We’ve had many storms, already this year. Fortunately, they’ve been moisture laden. Dry lightening is a huge concern in the Sierra Nevada, especially in a dry year like this.  Our long term weather prediction is for high thunderstorm activity in July and August. Hopefully, a healthy dose of rain goes with it.

Lake Almanor

A downpour coming across Lake Almanor.

Rain2

Unfortunately, thunderstorms are so spotty when it comes to rain. As of yesterday “sleepers” started popping up all over Northern California. The sleepers are the smoldering lightning strikes that flare into a full blown fires when the temperatures rise and humidity falls.

Rain1

Most of the lightning fires have already been extinguished by the fire services, but there are always a few that get away. Today we are suppose to reach 103 F in the valley and 108 F tomorrow. Despite the rain, it’s fire season in Northern California.

Forestry Friday … Weather Station

anemometer, wind speed, fire weather

The anemometer measures the wind speed and direction.

California is into the fourth year of drought. Wildfire is on our minds in the natural resources community. Hazardous fire conditions are just around the corner and we are already preparing. The state and federal agencies have a system for predicting high fire hazard conditions, and tracking weather and fuel moisture is at the core of it.

weather station, fire weather, forestry

A portable weather station.

We utilize local weather stations on our timber lands to get pin point fire weather conditions. Our research department installs them. Some of these stations are permanent and some are mobile. The mobile stations, like the one shown above, can be relocated as needed. We put these at active logging sites so we can measure accurate on site fire weather conditions.

fuel moisture stick, fuel moisture, wildfire, fire weather

The fuel moisture stick measures moisture content in forest fuels.

Years ago, we used mechanical anemometers to measure wind speed, and fuel moisture sticks weighed with a scale to measure fuel moisture. During the summer season, measurements were taken on the hour by someone on the logging crew. When conditions became severe enough, operations were shut down for the day.

With today’s technology, we have the ability to monitor conditions continuously and have the data transmitted to our office. Changes in fire conditions can be spotted in real-time and radioed to the logging crews. We can collect much more data with the new weather stations than ever before, and respond to changing condition accordingly.

The Ponderosa Fire is still going strong on Tuesday evening.

The Ponderosa Fire.

The weather stations won’t eliminate wildfire, but they do assist the logging crews in avoiding being the cause.

Forestry Friday … Protecting a King Sized Salvage Job!

The King Fire devastated almost 98,000 acres in the Sierra Nevada, east of Sacramento. Our company lost 18,000 acres of forest. Lately, I’ve had opportunity to spend time in the burn area. There is a lot of work being done by our foresters, biologists, botanists, and others to protect the resources so the timber can be quickly salvaged in an environmentally sensible manner. Most people never get to see what is done to protect the soil, water, cultural resources, and wildlife. In the gallery are images of just some of the work being done.

There is a lot of preparation that has to be done prior to logging. It has taken a large team of resource professionals to get the job done on a project this size.

Just for children a picture book about wildfire and the forest rehabilitation that takes place after a fire. Check out, Firestorm In the Forest.

The Art Challenge, Day Five … Story Books

 

It’s day five! I was tagged to do the 3 pieces of art a day for 5 days, Art Challenge, by Mark Mitchell. This is the last post. The theme for today is “Story Books”, that I’ve illustrated  I put up illustrations from three different books.

I would love to give everyone a break, so I’m not tagging anybody for the Art Challenge. If you want to do it, then tell me and I’ll tag you!

The books:

Buddy, The Wayward Wolverine

Firestorm in the Forest

Buddy and the Magic Chicken Tree

Forestry Friday … Fire From The Sky!

In this year of drought, our forests are a tinder box waiting for a spark. That spark came from the sky on the last day of July. It reached 108 F in the valley. A major lightning storm rolled across the North State and left numerous forest fires in its wake.

wildfire, Forest fire

Looking east toward Burney. On the right is smoke from the Day Fire and on the right is the Bald Mountain Fire.

Bald Mountain Fire

Bald Mountain.

A huge thundercloud forms about The Bald Mountain Fire.

A huge thundercloud forms above the Bald Mountain Fire. Burney Mountain on the right, has a fire lookout on its peak.

The cloud above the fire continued to grow all day.

The cloud above the fire continued to grow all day as the fire exploded in size. These clouds create erratic winds that cause the fire to spot.

The air tankers bombed the fire throughout the daylight hours.

The air tankers bombed the fires throughout the daylight hours. This S2 is on its way to the Coffee Fire.

To the west another group of fires was burning.

More fires were burning to the west. This column was from the Coffee Creek Fire.

Eiler Fire

A new fire called the Eiler Fire took off on the second day. It’s was close to the Bald Mountain Fire. The two fires were threatening the town of Burney. From the valley in Anderson, we could see at least six major smoke columns in all directions.

The beginning of the week brought us a rare and very wet cold front. The rain helped the firefighter get a handle on many of the fires.

The beginning of the week brought us a rare and very wet cold front. The rain helped the firefighters get a handle on many of the fires. The same storm created flash floods and mud slides in Southern California.

Wildfire Sunsets are a silver lining.

Wildfire sunsets are a silver lining.

Most of the east side fires are under control now, but several fires in the Klamath Mountains are still burning. We still have a long way to go to reach the end of fire season.

Wildfire Weekend

wildfire, forest fire

A wildfire broke out west of town Friday afternoon.

Last Friday I posted Storm Clouds Brewing and talked about lightning and wildfire. Then Friday afternoon an aggressive wildfire broke out west of town. However, this fire wasn’t caused by lightning, it was caused because of an illegal marijuana grow.

wildfire, forest fire, lighting

It formed a huge column and began building it’s own thunder cloud.

air tanker, fire fighting, wildfire, forest fire

The fire crews were scrambled and the air-tankers took to the air.

The thing is, Mary and I were planning a weekend away camping in our trailer at our favorite spot. The problem was, the fire was less then five miles from our camp where we had already staged our trailer. We made the decision to retrieve our trail while the fire was relatively small, only 300 acres.

wildfire, forest fire

As we approached camp the sky became angrier.

wildfire, forest fire

After reaching camp, we packed everything, hooked up the trailer and pulled out. The smoke made it very dark.

wildfire, forest fire

Looking to the sky from camp.

wildfire, forest fire

The fire was two ridges away when we hauled out.

We got the trailer safely home and by the time we went to bed the fire had grown to 2,800 acres.

Saturday was a new day and the fire had not advance too much over night. It was reported at 2,930 acres. We decided to head back up to camp to pick the last of our equipment. Sailor and Kinta came with us this time.

golden retrievers

Sailor and Kinta are ready for an adventure.

 

It was still very smoky up near camp.

It was still very smoky up near camp. An inversion had settled the smoke into the canyons.

By the time we finished the truck was covered in ash.

By the time we finished the truck was covered in ash. Clearly the fire was still actively burning.

Sailor and Kinta find this whole adventure thing quite exhausting.

Sailor and Kinta found this whole adventure thing quite exhausting.

By the time we returned home the fire was still at 2,930 acres. Unfortunately, high winds hit Saturday night/Sunday morning and by Sunday morning it was up to 3,700 acres. The terrain is very steep and it is extremely brushy. Spot fires have been tormenting the firefighters. Just when they seem to getting a handle on it, another slop over occurs. It is now Tuesday night and the fire is reported at 8,100 acres. Today was overcast and calm. Hopefully, they made good progress containing it. The fire is now 1 3/4 miles from camp. We shall see what tomorrow brings.