Wildfire & beetle infested trees

The USFS commissioned a study which revealed (not surprisingly) that beetle infested trees burn faster, hotter, and spread embers farther than healthy pine trees.

“HELENA, Mont.—The red needles of a tree killed in a mountain pine beetle attack can ignite up to three times faster than the green needles of a healthy tree, new research into the pine beetle epidemic has found.
The findings by U.S. Forest Service ecologist Matt Jolly are being used by fellow ecologist Russ Parsons to develop a new model that will eventually aid firefighters who battle blazes in the tens of millions of acres from Canada to Colorado where forest canopies have turned from green to red from the beetle outbreak.

The new model incorporates a level of detail and physics that doesn’t exist in current models, and it is much more advanced in predicting how a wildfire in a beetle-ravaged region will behave, Parsons said.

“It gives you so much more information about what to expect,” he said. “Are these people safe here or should they run away? If we put a crew on the ground here, can they make it to the top of the ridge in ample time?”

Many communities in the Rocky Mountain West have beetle kill forests in some proximity.

And the new research dispels the notion that beetle-killed trees present no greater fire danger than live ones, a theory that had gained traction after a couple of wet, cool summers tamped down fire activity in the region, Jolly said.

On the contrary, beetle-killed trees can hold 10 times less moisture than live trees, Jolly found. That means they not only ignite more quickly than live trees, but they burn more intensely and carry embers farther than live trees, Jolly said.”

For the rest of the article, see this link: Sunday’s Monterey Herald.

I was just posting to Firefighter blog how it is fast approaching the time for me to make the seasonal change in my blog from winter/spring weather to summer/fall fires. I will start to make that transition this month, change the links to the right for my fire watch links, a bit at a time. Some links span the entire year, and will remain.

2 thoughts on “Wildfire & beetle infested trees

  1. Nice post Kate. Beetle ravaged forests are a true plague as you point out. With fewer dollars available to the forests and National Parks thinning is not an option. Especially vulnerable is the Big Bear/Arrowhead communities in SoCal.
    Yes, time to start thinking wildfire. I look forward to your fire coverage this season Kate.

  2. This really rings true up in Idaho, where three years back we saw the great fires in the River of No Return destroy 2 million acres! It was a truly nuclear event. In our canyon up there some of our ponderosas are afflicted. We hope the good water year up there will give the trees extra strength to resist the infestation. Lots of water here in Big Sur means a bountiful growth of the understory of grass, brush, and such, which will dry out into an ominous fire-load. Pray for not too hot and dry weather this Summer! And finally…think defensible space!

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