Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Forest Fires (And An Update)

 (Fire Update:  The fire has continued its growth, but fortunately not significantly in the direction of The Ranch.  The potential weather which was a possibility was south of the fire and thus, potential winds and lightning strikes which could have worsened things did not appear.  Grateful for the prayers.  I will say it is jarring to see the fire lines basically outlining the outskirts of the nearby town).

One of the things that we saw evidence of on our hike were previous forest fires.

Forest fires are a reality of lots of places, including Old Home (New Home has had its share as well, which was somewhat surprising to me when I moved here as it was not the sort of place I thought these things happened).  We had seen evidence on our previous hikes and saw some driving in to the Mt. Whitney hike as well as some stands early in the hike on canyons to the west of us.

That I can see, this is only picture I took that perhaps shows fire damage:

I suppose it is understandable of course:  The view of forests after burns are depressing at best.  Sticks raised to the sky with branches stuck out like bare arms on the hillsides that are bare themselves.  Blackened wood that is dead although it fakes the appearance of living.

And that is far away.  They can be even more jarring up close.

Such fires are a tragedy, or so we consider them.  

Part of the tragedy remains purely on us, of course.  We stopped fires from occurring all together and so the more frequent fires that would clear out underbrush and smaller trees were allowed to grow, creating conditions for far more hot, intense fires.  And we actively discouraged any sort of active thinning or logging which might have had some of the same impact (do not read into this that completely logging everything is a solution either; it is just as destructive).

Still, for all of that, the fires would have likely still occurred at some level. And that would also be a necessary thing for the renewal of the forest and the ecosystem.

The forest will recover - but its recovery will be measured in decades, not seasons (see the above paragraph for how we helped extend this period by poor choices).  This is not a tragedy for the forest - it can wait 50 or 100 years to re-establish itself.  

It is a tragedy for us, of course, because most of us will never live to see the forests regrown.  In that sense, we have likely deprived ourselves and at least our children.

I may sound a bit aggravated about this - because I am aggravated.  My father spent almost 10 years clearing brush and cleaning up The Ranch to prevent this sort of thing from happening there, and The Cowboy and The Young Cowboy have continued this work.  You cannot completely eliminate forest fires, but things can be done to lessen their impact.  For many years we did precisely nothing and even now, we are easing our way slowly back into active forest management.  It takes time and effort and appreciation of the land, something too often missing in those that get their view of Nature from streaming media and carefully controlled and managed experiences.

At some point - hopefully September, but it truly may be October or November - I will be able to get back up to The Ranch and hopefully beyond.  I know I am going to be saddened and shocked by what I will see - not just from the destruction, which I predict will be awful, but from the long term impact on the area.  This was an area who depended to a great extent upon some level of logging and tourism due to outdoor recreation.  Both of this will be almost completely gone.

Hopefully not gone in the long term sense of the forest, just gone in the sense of my own lifetime.

One wonders, if we would think in these terms, how much differently we would manage the forests.

A Final Note:  It with sadness that I read Reverend Paul of Way Up North has decided to stop posting.  He has been a long time friend of this blog and I will miss his posts (and his Iditarod updates every year!).  If you have benefitted from his wisdom, you might drop by and let him know.


  1. Anonymous6:05 AM

    I'm glad to hear that the nearby fire is moving away from you. Prayers for you and the people who are now in its path. One of my acquaintances near Salem Oregon was asked to evacuate his home, then later rescinded but told to keep close to the news in case this changes. It sounds like fire season up there is wearing on a lot of people.

    I guess every region has its local danger. I live near the Gulf of Mexico, so hurricane season is always something to keep abreast of. High wind and flooding rain can ruin a person's day. This year has been uncharacteristically quiet. I like that.

    1. Thank you. Kudos to the fire crews that have been working this since last week. It is a hot and dangerous job wildly unappreciated - until you need them.

      The last few years of fire season have, I think, been wearing on people. We have certainly had years long droughts in the past (although people forget this), which raised the danger. I do not remember these sorts of fires growing up, but I wonder if part of that is due to the fact that forests were managed differently at the time. Of course, abundant rain with no management creates its own sorts of risks as well.

      Honestly, that is one of the larger concerns of potentially moving back is the threat of fire. It is there every season. As you correctly say, we all have our risks - or choose our poisons for where we are going to live.

  2. Nylon127:41 AM

    Reading good news early in the day always sets the mood TB, and as you state there some kind of risk everywhere. Here it's tornadoes and blizzards.

    1. Nylon, it is funny how they are different in different parts of the country/world. Hurricanes and tornadoes boggle my mind; earthquakes, not so much.

      Fire turned a bit today, so not all good news.

  3. I'm glad the news is good for you. I was praying the Old Homeplace would be spared. I feel for you in regards to the lack of management. Poor stewardship always shows up and affects those around.

    I went to college in Longview, TX. It was named that because you could see for miles in almost any direction. After the cotton farming moved on, the pine forests came back. You can only see straight up now. Smells like the mountains, and is hot and humid like a swamp. Confusing place for someone that grew up in west Texas.

    1. Thanks STxAR. I really hope this restarts a discussion around forest management, but I doubt it will.

      It is remarkable to many people how quickly a forest can grow up, given the right conditions. Hot, humid, mountain smelling - that does smell confusing.

  4. In my neck of the woods we have a saying about deer. It isn't a question of IF you will hit one in a vehicle but WHEN. From my chair, it seems like the same thing can be said about any plot of land out there and wildfires.

    1. Ed, there was interesting study my friend The Director told me about coming out of UC Davis that, for example, historically the Sierra Nevadas burned once every five years. And then we stopped the burning for almost 100. Regular fires kept the overall fuel ratio down - but there were undoubtedly a lot of fires. Now there are less fires, but they seem far more destructive.

  5. Glad to hear the fire isn't threatening your spread at this point, TB. That being said, fire is a natural function of the forest, essentially performing the process of thinning things out so the forest can continue to flourish. Out here in the West, we have Pinion Pines. Their pinecones REQUIRE fire to open them up. The trees' seeds will not germinate UNTIL after a burn springs the cones! Fire is the rebirth of a forest, and recovery starts quickly. True, the view is depressing right after the burn, but a year or two down the line it's easy to see God's amazing mechanism in motion!

    1. Pete, we played God at our peril - to your point, there are parts of the ecosystem that require fire to function (God and His "Planning For All Eventualities"). One can only hope we find a happier medium.


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