Forest rebounding from 2016 fire

30 September 2020

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USA – Four years after the fire at Little Cranberry Lake in the Anacortes Community Forest Lands, the burned area has experienced a lot of growth with native species starting to get taller and covering more land.

The 2016 18-acre fire was fairly well contained in a couple of days, but the fire took a couple weeks to fully be out.

At the time, the Department of Natural Resources had to cut 

down over 100 trees that were hazards to the firefighters working to contain the blaze.

“I’ve been with the department for 34 years, and it’s the largest wildland (fire) we’ve had. We’ve had several acres in size but not like this,” said Jack Kennedy, assistant fire chief with the Anacortes Fire Department. “The fire behavior that we experienced up here was also not normal for this area. We had trees that were actually torching from the bottom to the top because of the relative humidity temperature and also the slope of the hill the fire was actually on.”

The area where the fire occurred was a wildland urban interface, which means the wildland areas are right next to urban areas, including homes. Steps have since been taken to help lower the risk of damage that a future forest fire could cause.

“For the residents that are around the forest lands, we have adopted what is called a FireWise program,” Kennedy said. “It’s voluntary, but what they do is educate the residents about what they can do on their property so they can help themselves clear out the danger areas and reduce the chance of spread from the wildland to a house.”

Tips include getting rid of any dry brush around your house and keeping firewood away from buildings, Kennedy said.

Anything that can have a point of ignition is banned from the Forest Lands, including fireworks, barbecues, smoking and vaping, Anacortes Parks and Recreation Department Director Jonn Lunsford said.

Parks and Recreation will try to remove fallen trees to reduce fuels by any residence, Lunsford said.

“Most of the fires we deal with on a regular basis could be cigarette started or someone coming out here and having a campfire and thinking they put it out, but what they don’t understand is the things underneath the ground … that are flammable,” he said.

The department has programs to help remove invasive plants such as scotch broom, which is flammable, he said.

Overnight camping and the use of alcohol have also been banned in the Forest Lands, Lunsford said.

Parks and Recreations patrols the area during the Fourth of July to watch for illegal fireworks and will set up a fire observation post, he said.

In 2017, a year after the Cranberry Lake fire, Parks staff started to see new growth such as a big orange fungus bloom, he said.

“The next spring you started to see native plants poke through the base. They had been burned up top and looked like they were dead, but at the base they were alive, so they started to regrow,” Lunsford said.

Burn scars are still left on some trees, and part of the area has shorter and sparser growth than the other, he said.

But it is recovering.

“We knew that nature would take care of it. We didn’t know how fast or well, but we are very pleased with it,” Lunsford said.

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