Forest fire allowed to burn to fight future fires

Forest fire allowed to burn to fight future fires

22 September 2010

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USA —  The Oregon Cascades east of Springfield are lands of lava beds and lodgepole pines.

Lightning strikes sparked what came to be known as the Scott Mountain Fire near McKenzie Pass on Aug. 19.

“There you see the red and the green,” Mei Lin Lantz, the McKenzie River ranger, points out. “That’s where the fire moved through.”

Now, as strange as it might sound, crews are fighting future fires by letting this fire burn.

“The public is gaining a more full understanding and appreciation of the role of fire and what it does,” said Jane Kertis, a forest service biologist.

Instead of a full-scale attack to put it out, public land managers are letting this fire take its natural course. They say that’s better for nature – and sets up a barrier against the next fire that comes through.

“We would then allow another small fire to burn in here and actually just monitor it, rather than suppress it,” Lantz said.

So in this case, the forest scientists say fire is good and natural, even if the Scott Mountain blaze is still not fully contained.

“Fire is not catastrophic in this case at all,” Kertis said.

Crews did fight to keep the fire away from private property and watersheds that provide drinking water to Eugene and Springfield.

The challenge for public land managers is to decide when forest fires need a full court press – and when to allow fires to do the work of nature.

“By allowing this natural process to come back,” Lantz said, “I think that nature is really going to have the most of the restoration.”

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