Joint Fire Science / Red Mountain Mastication Study
» Red Mountain Prescribed Burn 2007
Weather, fire operations and research efforts came together on December 5th and 6th, 2007 to accomplish the prescribed burn treatments on the Red Mountain Mastication Study units. Scott Williams, the Burn Boss, along with the Fulton Hotshots, the Cobra 5 handcrew, Engines 42, 43, 44 and 47 and other fire personnel completed prescribed burns on four research units in two days. Due to the expertise of the firing and holding operations, four disjunct burns in timber and masticated fuels were completed safely within a short window before season-ending precipitation.
[ Photo: John Carothers, Ignitions Boss, lighting burn unit. ]
Fire operations worked seamlessly with the research crew from AMSET, who set up fire behavior equipment on plots days to hours before each burn. The Breckenridge handcrew lead burn unit preparation efforts during the last two fire seasons and participated in leadership and burner roles. Due to the technical nature of the fire behavior equipment, setup requires careful preparation and organized logistics. The AMSET Fire Behavior Assessment Team (FBAT) installed 16 sets of fire behavior equipment the day before the first burns, and 12 sets before the second day of burning, surpassing previous rates of equipment installation.
The Red Mountain burn was accomplished during a narrow window of favorable weather between Dec 5th and 6th, 2007, before the passage of a front. Two of the research units were burned the first day and two were burned the second day. On the first day, winds were
1-5 miles per hour and variable in direction. Temperatures ranged from 47 to 58 F and relative humidities were in the lower 30ís in the morning to upper 50ís by the end of the day. The first day there was little to no cloud cover.
[ Photo: Fire backing into fire behavior equipment. ]
The second day, a front moved through, bringing wind changes and precipitation. Mid-morning temperatures were in the 50's and dropped to the lower 40's by the afternoon. Winds directions were variable in the morning and from the SW in the afternoon. Windspeeds were 3-8 during the day, with gusts as high as 13 in the afternoon. Relative humidities were in the 40's in the morning, then rose in the afternoon as precipitation began. The last burn was completed during a wetting rain which turned to snow over night.
[ Photo: Spot fire iginitions. ]
Backing fires were generally used, meaning that fires were lit so that they would spread downhill and/or against the wind, keeping the flame heights and rates of spread lower. The technique of "spot-firing" was often used to maintain less intense fire behavior. By initiating fire in small dots across strip of a burn unit, the dots slowly spread and merge together, without picking up a head of steam as a strip of fire might. Isolated torching did occur occasionally, but generally flame heights were 1-4 feet. Smoldering lasted from several hours in lighter fuels such as grass and pine litter to about 24 hours in heavier masticated fuels.
Fire behavior gear was retrieved after prescribed burns were completed and data was downloaded from equipment. Due to heavy snowfall immediately after the prescribed burn, post-burn data will be collected in the spring. Fire behavior data will be analyzed alongside pre and post-burn fuel measurements and tree mortality to aid in resource management decisions regarding future use of combined mastication and prescribed fire treatments in this fuel type.
[ Photo: Fire behavior equipment removed after burn and snow. ]
Thanks to all fire resources who helped accomplish the burn despite long hours, chilling rain and snow. Thanks also go to the Sequoia National Forest personnel who supported the burn and research operations. Thanks go to AMSET employees and short-term detailers who helped with the fire behavior research.