Washington wildfires have been one of the biggest media stories of the year, both in our state and across the nation. And rightfully so considering the (short term) impacts to people, property, wildlife and wildlands.
But there are things we can do to prevent or reduce disastrous fires. At Conservation Northwest, our Forest Field Program and partners at state, federal and tribal agencies have been working to make investments for forest resilience and fire preparedness for years. Now, some of the early data from 2015 fires is showing they paid off.
Learn how in the Fire Dispatch below from the Conservation Northwest blog.
CNW Fire Dispatch #12 – Inside the fire lines
Editor’s Note: This is the twelfth of our fire dispatches from staff and colleagues that live or work in the areas impacted by this year’s fires. Dispatch #1, Dispatch #2, Dispatch #3, Dispatch #4, Dispatch #5, Dispatch #6, Dispatch #7, Dispatch #8, Dispatch #9, Dispatch #10, Dispatch #11.
A forest ecologist, Dave Werntz lives and works in the Methow Valley community of Twisp. He previously authored our second Fire Dispatch, Perspective from our Science Director, after evacuating due to the Twisp River Fire.
By Dave Werntz, Conservation Northwest Science and Conservation Director
Fires are intense and sometimes frightening agents of transformation. They draw from the basic elements of topography, vegetation, and weather to sculpt mosaics on landscapes held dear by countless people and vital for innumerable wild creatures. But while fire maps show neat lines and news reports describe acres burned (or too often, “devastated”), we know from past fire research that within the burn perimeter fire behavior is immensely diverse but not without pattern.
Looking at those patterns today, early indications are that our investments in forest and wildlands restoration helped shaped the way the 2015 fires played out on the landscape. In several places, it appears this work favorably affected fire growth and behavior.
Ecologists describe historic or characteristic fire behavior according to its extent, frequency and severity. Before aggressive fire suppression began many years ago, many of our region’s shrub-steppe grasslands burned frequently with small, high-intensity fires. Slightly upslope, dry pine and mixed-conifer forests burned with similar frequency but with less intensity. Near mountain tops, wetter forests burned hot over larger areas during years of drought, often at intervals that could span centuries. On the mid-elevation slopes in between there was lots of variability in fire frequency, size and intensity.
With this knowledge, Conservation Northwest’s Forest Field Program has been preparing for the hot summer drought of 2015 for more than a decade. Our goal is resilient forests and watersheds that are capable of withstanding natural disturbances, including those bolstered by climate change, as well as safer towns and communities.
Click for a full-size PDF map of our forest restoration projects and 2015 fire perimeters.