Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Fire Fly Bys And The Second Growth Blues

Last weekend was one for the books. We were supposed to have a remote-control boat and airplane expo down at the lake, coupled up as it has been with a bluegrass festival.

There were lots of people camping down there, some in 150,000 dollar bus/camper conversions, but no boats or planes or music came.

My friend Bruce called me instead to tell me a fire had started not too far from here, giving me a heads up because our house is in the runway of such a fire. BIG airplanes and helicopters showed up along with a huge assortment of extra large toy fire engines. A bomber came and dropped red stuff, left, and then came again.

All in all 70 acres of forest land burned and the air was smoky from this fire, as well as California wild land fires blowing over the mountain range.

These pictures are orange because of the smoke and the late afternoon sun.

So rather than stick around waiting for fiddles and burning sticks, I headed out for a time to where the hippies live. They had their tri-yearly communal gathering going with a really good local band and a bunch of skunky smelling herb.

The wind shifted and this party got smoky too. Such is life during fire season in Oregon.

For those who may want to know, the reason forest fires get out of control and are so dangerous nowadays, is because so much of Oregon forests are only fifty or sixty years old.

A natural forest is naturally "old", meaning you expect to find most trees in the forest to be very old and nearing the end, rather than the beginning of its life cycle. That is why the term "old growth".

A forest that is recovering from logging is called "second growth", and is not a natural forest at all. It has none of the built in fire protections that an old growth forest has. It's floor is exposed to the sun (or was not too many years ago) so that scrub bushes can grow. The trees are all competing for water in the shallower root levels, making them drier, (and since they all started growing at the same time, they are closer together and the same size). The lower branches are dried out and dying and hanging almost on the ground, making it easy for a fire to access the top of the trees. Pests like beetles can move through these forests easily, as they tend to be homogenus-- and if you like one douglas fir tree, your beetle kids will like the next one...

So, when a fire starts, we google earth it and check the winds, as these fires burn unlike any natural fire from pre-chainsaw days...

You can see how dry the grass is at this time.

Couple that with dry and unhealthy forests and we live in a nightmare waiting to occur.

The perps of this fire turned out to be "scrappers", people who were burning the insulation off of metal stuff so they could sell it for meth money (most likely).

I have no idea what time the hippy party shut down, but my guess is that it went until the smoke cleared and the sun was coming 'round again...


Cheesy said...

Fire just scares the shit out of me this time of year... unless I have skunky weed! lol

Shrinky said...

Oh my, such damage. You are a font of knowledge scott, thanks for explaining about why these fires seem to explode out of nowhere these days, now I can understand why.

Hope you have a safe and fire-free remainder of the Summer.

Anne said...

I want to come to the hippie parties.