How You Can Prevent Forest Fires in the Hurricane

Document Sample
How You Can Prevent Forest Fires in the Hurricane Powered By Docstoc
					       How You Can Prevent Forest Fires
       in the Hurricane Ivan Impact Area
                   By Lou Hyman, Assistant Fire Division Director, Alabama Forestry Commission




W
                hen Hurricane Ivan hit        Fire Behavior Problems                       amount of fuel on the ground, which
                Alabama last fall, it dam-       In February, 2005, the Alabama            means that a small fire can quickly esca-
                aged an estimated 11.8        Forestry Commission (AFC) brought in a       late into a major conflagration. As these
                million acres of forestland   team of nationally certified Fire Behavior   tops dry out, they become even more
across the state. While a lot of the dam-     Analysts to look at the hurricane dam-       dangerous. In addition, the piled fuels
age has been salvaged, many landowners        aged area and identify potential fire        create “fuel ladders” which enable the
still have stands with trees that are blown   behavior problems. The team found that       fires to climb off the ground surface and
down or have tops broken out.                 storm damage varied greatly within the       burn into the remaining tree crowns.
    As the dead trees and tops dry out,       area, based on timber types and local        Here they can cause severe damage and
they create increased wildfire hazards.       wind conditions.                             throw embers across the fire lines,
These heavy fuels could cause even a             The biggest problem they identified       increasing the spread of the fire.
small forest fire to intensify to dangerous   was the heavy fuel loading as a result of        Hurricane damage also creates fire
levels.                                       tree blow-downs. These damaged areas         containment problems and obstacles that
                                              had high fire hazards because of the large   hamper the building of control lines
8 / Alabama’s TREASURED Forests                                                                                         Summer 2005
                     around wildfires. The tops and fallen         existing stands. Prescribed burning in      burn permit. The number is on the inside
                     trees slow down the tractor-plows used        stands with heavy hurricane damage is       cover of your local phone book.
                     by the AFC, forcing them to push              dangerous and requires the use of an           Arson, the intentional setting fire to
                     through the obstacle or go around it. In a    experienced Prescribed Burn Manager.        another person’s property, is hard to fully
                     forest with heavy brush, these obstacles      Burns need to be done during times of       prevent. However, a landowner can do
                     cause safety problems for the fire fighters   somewhat high relative humidity, and        some things to reduce your risk. Maintain
                     by restricting their movements.               may take two or more burns to eliminate     good relationships with your neighbors.
                        As a landowner, there are two ways to      all the hazards.                            This eliminates many causes of arson and
                     reduce the wildfire risk to your forest.                                                  also increases the number of people look-
                     One is to reduce the fuel loading and         Fire Prevention on Your Farm                ing out for your land. The biggest deter-
                     containment constraints, so that any fires        The best way to prevent wildfire dam-   rent to arson is having the community
                     would be low in intensity. The other          age on your farm is keep wildfires out of   express displeasure at arson incidents. If
                     action is to reduce the number of fires       the forest. The most common causes for      the community feels that woods arson is
                     that occur.                                   wildfires in Alabama are careless debris    bad, community members are less likely
                                                                   burning and arson. Surprisingly, lightning  to set the woods on fire.
                     Fire Mitigation                               causes less than one percent of forest         Another arson prevention technique is
                         The first step that you as a landowner    fires in Alabama.                           to reduce access to your land by out-
                     can take to reduce wildfire risk is to            The AFC has guidelines for landown-     siders. Installing gates on roads and hav-
                     improve access within your forest.            ers to use when burning debris so that      ing the main access go past the house
                     Existing firebreaks and woods roads           you can do it safely and not cause further  will eliminate many arson chances.
                     should be cleared so that fire fighters can   damage or loss to your forest.                 No single technique will eliminate all
                     use them as a line of defense to stop             Burn one pile of forest debris at a timerisk for a wildfire on your forest, but by
                     wildfire. This is especially important        and keep the piles small (less than 10      doing hazard mitigation and basic fire
                     around any homes or structures on the         feet in diameter). The piles should con-    prevention you can have a better chance
                     property. New firebreaks should be estab-     tain only natural vegetation or untreated   of protecting the TREASURE that is
                     lished to break up the property into man-     wood products. Clear the area around the    your Forest.
                     ageable stands. These also help improve       burn pile of any flammable material,
                     access into the property for recreation       including grass and




                                                                                                                                                             Photo by Lou Hyman
                     and when prescribed burning is done.          pine straw. Keep
                         The best way to reduce fuel loading is    the burn piles at
                     to salvage the damaged timber. Salvage        least 50 feet from
Photo by Lou Hyman




                     also reduces or eliminates the contain-       structures and any
                     ment obstacles so that wildfires can be       forest vegetation.
                     more easily controlled. Many landowners       Only burn when
                     were able to salvage their timber this        the winds are calm
                     winter. Although damaged pine trees are       or light. It is too
                     not sellable for sawtimber now, harvest-      windy to burn if
                     ing them for pulpwood, even at                trees are swaying,
                     depressed prices, will bring in some          flags are extended,
                     income and reduce the potential for           or waves appear on
                     catastrophic wildfires in your forest.        open water.
                         In some parts of the state, local con-        Be prepared to
                     tractors are available to come into the       extinguish the fire
                     forest and chip up downed trees and tops.     if it becomes a nui-
                     The resulting chips can be used for           sance. Maintain a
                     industrial fuel or other forest products,     connected water
                     depending on local markets. There are         hose or at least five
                     also in-woods mulchers, which grind up        gallons of water
                     the tops and spread the chips across the      and a shovel near-
                     forest floor where the nutrients can be       by. Attend the fire
                     recycled. Both of these operations reduce     until it is complete-
                     the fire hazard by eliminating the heavy      ly extinguished.
                     available fuel loads and opening up the       Before you burn
                     stands for easy access.                       any large debris
                         Another way to reduce wildfire haz-       piles or more than
                     ards is by prescribed burning. The careful    1/4 acre of forest-

                     use of controlled fire under exacting         land, call the
                                                                                         Containment obstacles - Tops and fallen trees not only
                     environmental conditions can eliminate        Alabama Forestry
                                                                                         hamper the tractor-plows used to build control lines around
                     hazardous fuels with minimal damage to        Commission for a
                                                                                         wildfires, but also cause safety problems for fire fighters.
                     Summer 2005                                                                                        Alabama’s TREASURED Forests / 9