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Tue Aug 31, 2021, 11:59 AM

Why The South Is Decades Ahead Of The West In Wildfire Prevention

In early May, flames began to spread through a pine forest, consuming a dense carpet of leaves and underbrush. The burn was the definition of a "good fire," intentionally ignited to clear vegetation that could fuel future infernos.

It happened in the state leading the nation in controlled burns: Florida.

As Western states contend with increasingly catastrophic wildfires, some are looking to the Southeastern U.S., where prescribed fire is widespread thanks to policies put in place decades ago. From 1998 to 2018, 70% of all controlled burning in the country was in the Southeast.

While a continent apart, both regions have a similar need for fire. For thousands of years, forests and woodlands experienced regular burning, both sparked by lightning and used by Native American tribes, which prevented the build up of flammable growth. Without fire, the landscape is prone to intense, potentially devastating wildfires.

https://www.npr.org/2021/08/31/1029821831/to-stop-extreme-wildfires-california-is-learning-from-florida
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Note: the Gatlinburg fires of 2016 were not "prescribed burns"!

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Response to Jilly_in_VA (Original post)

Tue Aug 31, 2021, 12:10 PM

1. I'm in North Alabama,

and we get enough rain here to make controlled burns safe and feasible. Most of the rain we get is Gulf moisture, distributed all over the southern states by natural upper level airflows.

You can't have a controlled burn with the tinderbox conditions out West.

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Response to House of Roberts (Reply #1)

Tue Aug 31, 2021, 12:19 PM

2. Especially since they waited decades to long to do anything.

I guess the south is doing a great job in this department.

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Response to Jilly_in_VA (Original post)

Tue Aug 31, 2021, 12:33 PM

3. It doesn't rain in California in the summertime like it does in the south and the humidity is zero

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Response to demosincebirth (Reply #3)

Tue Aug 31, 2021, 12:37 PM

4. Exactly. "Controlled" burns are not possible in a tinderbox where even a cigarette butt

starts a massive fire.

And the lack of rain out West all or most of the Winter (ie: for months) causes that dryness and thus fires get sparked - very easily.

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Response to CousinIT (Reply #4)

Tue Aug 31, 2021, 12:41 PM

5. IIRC

California gets its rains in winter (when there isn't a drought going on) so the timing would have to be different.

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Response to Jilly_in_VA (Reply #5)

Tue Aug 31, 2021, 12:57 PM

8. Problem is they have drought in Winter in many areas half the time too.

https://weather.com/safety/news/2020-02-14-california-drought-february

Last Winter very little rain and not nearly enough snow in the Sierras.

But I'm not a meteorologist, environmentalist or a fire expert either.

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Response to CousinIT (Reply #4)

Tue Aug 31, 2021, 03:04 PM

10. I know but California you really have understand the forest fires and why they have so many

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Response to Jilly_in_VA (Original post)

Tue Aug 31, 2021, 12:55 PM

6. This is not an apples to apples comparison. The climates

between the southeast and CA and the pacific northwest are vastly different as is the type and scope of the forests. In Oregon at the end of last summer we were experiencing days of triple digit temperature with relative humidity in th low teens matching death vally on some days.. The already drought stricken dry forests were dried out even more by these conditions and high winds. A single ember can travel and ingnite a firestorm with days of high wind conditions.

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Response to Jilly_in_VA (Original post)

Tue Aug 31, 2021, 12:56 PM

7. I Didn't Know About Ag Burning Season

It actually happens a lot. It's enough to impact local air quality.

Here's an example of Ag burning in the sugar cane fields in FL. Probably contributes to asthma issues for the locals.



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Response to Jilly_in_VA (Original post)

Tue Aug 31, 2021, 01:00 PM

9. Fighting fire with fire? Controlled burns may work in NorCal, but not always in SoCal

KCRW.com

One of the most talked about solutions to the state’s wildfires is also one of the most dangerous for some Southern California neighborhoods: prescribed burns.

“This is an ecosystem that's really adapted to infrequent fire. So it is fire adapted,” says fire ecologist Marti Witter, who works in the Santa Monica Mountains. “But probably the natural return interval in this area would have been between 70 and 100 years, because this is one of the areas with the lowest amount of lightning ignitions in the country overall.”

Angeles National Forest Fire Chief Robert Garcia says prescribed burns aren’t unheard of in the forests of Southern California, they’re just rare, and they’re becoming more difficult to do safely.

“We've had some significant challenges. This year, this prescribed burn season … which is typically January through May, because of how dry things have been, we really had to slow down in order to manage the risk of any kind of escape,” he says.

Fire agencies have to choose days when the plants aren’t too dry and the wind isn’t too strong so they can maintain control of a prescribed burn. As the climate warms and the drought worsens, that window of opportunity has gotten smaller. That’s left some local residents skeptical about whether prescribed burns work in Southern California at all.


I'm a native Southern Californian who has witnessed winds drive prescribed burns out of control.

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Response to quaint (Reply #9)

Tue Aug 31, 2021, 06:04 PM

11. Lightning ignition was less significant in Southern California fires after humans arrived.

Native Americans practiced fire management resulting in a huge patchwork quilt of recently burned land that may have inhibited the sort of monster fires we see today.

And things probably got out of control in their own fire management schemes at times as well, especially in periods of drought.

The social consequences of prescribed burns going out of control weren't any different 2,000 years ago than they are today.

A home lost to fire is a home lost to fire. A life lost to fire is a life lost to fire.

Fire management in California is not comparable to fire management in the South.


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Response to Jilly_in_VA (Original post)

Sun Sep 5, 2021, 05:51 PM

12. Gatlinburg was the 1st thing I thought of...


How a retired firefighter saved his own life in Gatlinburg wildfire.


https://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/local/tennessee/2016/12/18/preparation-saved-home-sevier-county-fire/95463706/




Note of apology: Sorry for my delayed response here. I've an embarrassing # of browser tabs opened & just now found this unposted response. Even worse: there are others.
Blaming my dementia.

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