Importance of Natural Resources

Doe Canyon: A Good Fire

[Background music] [Male speaker 1]
So the DOE Canyon Fire was started by
lightning on June 18th. The fire’s in a pretty good area that’s allowable under
the San Juan National Forest’s Land and Resource Management plan, to allow
natural ignitions to play their role, their historic role, in forest health. There’s so many ways to manage a landscape. If you use fire, to me that’s the most natural way to do it. [Milakovic]
We’re using it as a benefit for the forest. [Male speaker 2]
It’s really the right time, the right place, and the right conditions to manage this fire appropriately with the right amount of resources,
and really doing nothing but good on the landscape. [Male narrator]
It’s the right time to manage this fire
to improve forest health because of a wet winter and spring. That moisture means
Doe Canyon is a low intensity fire burning mostly dead wood and needle cast – the cones and needles shed by Ponderosa pines. [Seekins]
The grass is really green, the oak
brush is still in a lot of moisture, so really it’s the… the needle cast is the only thing that’s dry enough to support surface fire. [Narrator]
It’s the right place to manage a fire
because it’s in an area already bounded by forest roads – roads
being used as control lines to keep the fire where we want it and away from
nearby grazing allotments and logging operations. [Milakovic]
Timber: That’s a big thing with this one.
We had to think long and hard how we were gonna manage this,
so that we could protect that value. [Narrator]
Fencing for cattle is also being protected.
The fire has been fully suppressed in other areas to keep it from impacting
recreation on the Dolores River. [High-pitched buzzing] [Narrator] The right resources are also being used here,
including wildland fire modules which are small specialized firefighting teams.
One of those teams uses drones, and it’s a safer, more effective way to fight fire. [Kelly Boyd: Unaweep Wildland Fire Module]
If a picture is worth a thousand words,
real-time video is invaluable. We can see what the fire behavior is actually doing.
We can see where it’s more aggressive in some areas and less aggressive in other areas. [Narrator]
A big concern on any fire is embers
floating across control lines and causing spot fires. [Boyd]
And it’s hard to see in the smoke. With the
UAS, we have an infrared camera attached to it, and it’s able to pick up the heat signatures. [Narrator]
This drone can also help burn out pockets of fuel from the air, dropping ping-pong balls filled with a chemical mixture which ignites on the
ground. It’s usually done with people and helicopters – a dangerous job. [Boyd]
Having an unmanned aerial system do the aerial ignition for us… it’s cheaper than a
helicopter, and it’s safer than a helicopter. If anything went wrong, what we lost
was just the aerial system, as opposed to… loss of life. [Narrator]
In decades past, a small, low-intensity fire like this would have been completely
stamped out right away. [Pietruszka]
The fires that are low intensity are very easy to suppress. However, that’s what we’ve been doing for the past about a hundred years. The issue
becomes when you keep suppressing low-intensity fires, you keep all that
fuel still there. And so when you have super hot dry windy conditions, and you
have an ignition, it goes to the canopy and causes active crown fire. [Narrator]
Crown fires are severe, destructive, and produce unhealthy levels of smoke – often for weeks at a time. [Narrator]
They pose a high risk to the public and firefighters. [Seekins]
We make every effort to engage those fires within reason and we accept… we all
accept some of those risks, but the risks are higher when the fire is more active. [Background music] [Narrator]
So this less-active fire has another benefit. [Milakovic]
What it does, is it creates barriers basically for us.
So that if we get an out-of-control wildfire, we can
steer it into something, like something that we’ve already burned on a prescribed burn,
and drop the intensity of that wildfire. [Narrator]
When crown fires become ground fires firefighters can safely attack, bringing
a quicker end to the destruction and the smoke. Creating a healthier and less fire
prone forest with its many resources intact, is why we consider Doe Canyon a “good fire.” [Seekins]
I’m very passionate about wildland
fire and its role in the ecosystem. I’ve seen the benefits firsthand in the
Ponderosa pine ecosystem. [Milakovic]
We’re just helping ourselves in the future.
Again, we’re reducing hazardous fuels, we’re reducing the likelihood of catastrophic large fires that do more destruction than good. We are getting results.
We’re getting positive results by doing what we’re doing. [Background music]

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