Fire Ecology in the Pines

bobpbx

Piney
Staff member
Oct 25, 2002
13,102
3,325
Pines; Bamber area
Fire ecology in the pines is often discussed. It's not my area of expertise, but it does interest me because of what I see out there. For the past month, I've gone deep into the pine plains performing a plant survey. I'm starting to feel vulnerable out there because of the combination of narrow, horribly maintained roads amid areas that have not burned in over 15 years. When you take 30 minutes carefully driving over the gullies and bumps and wet clay holes and then step out of the truck into silence, it's invigorating...until you realize the trees are 2 to 3 times the size they used to be, the trail is only 7 or 8 feet wide, there is no place to turn around, and the wind is blowing. I doubt I'd ever get out alive if a fire started on route 539 and the wind was blowing in my direction. Well, we take risks, but it's unsettling.

It has me wondering if the current policy of numerous and regular controlled burns along with underbrush cutting around home developments while the rest of the forest grows unchecked is part of the plan; by that I mean - does the FFS realize there will be wildfires, so they'll just deal with them as they come now?

You should be able to read this, it's what they call a gift article. But this is a different situation with Sequoias, they are trying to save those trees. We don't do that in the pines. The cedars, yes, but that's an uncontrollable situation.

 

bobpbx

Piney
Staff member
Oct 25, 2002
13,102
3,325
Pines; Bamber area
Some of you who know the plains might be surprised at the height of the vegetation in this photo. This is that trail on the north side of Governors pond by the bombing range.

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stiltzkin

Explorer
Feb 8, 2022
220
284
Medford
So is a potential solution just more controlled burns? Why are they letting some of these remote areas go without burning for so long? Is it just too difficult/expensive/ecologically damaging to set up fire breaks in some of these places? I would think the ecological damage from the total lack of fire must be much more severe.
 
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bobpbx

Piney
Staff member
Oct 25, 2002
13,102
3,325
Pines; Bamber area
So is a potential solution just more controlled burns? Why are they letting some of these remote areas go without burning for so long? Is it just too difficult/expensive/ecologically damaging to set up fire breaks in some of these places? I would think the ecological damage from the total lack of fire must be much more severe.
Your second question is the burning one (pun intended), and I agree with your last statement. In 2007 when the Warren Grove inferno erupted, the chosen future defense is to create a 250' wide vegetation removal on Micajas road (they liked it so much they did Washington Turnpike). They did that to try and spare the trailer park and homes on 72. But I don't think that would stop a wind-driven inferno like the 2007 fire, or the 95 fire in Greenwwod.

1661018047715.png
 
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smoke_jumper

Piney
Mar 5, 2012
1,288
744
Atco, NJ
I’m no expert on fire ecology nor can I speak on behalf of the FFS but I do know a thing or two on fire behavior in the pines. If your on that road and a fire started on 539 you’d have an hour or so before the fire reached you even with a wind driven fire. To be over taken by a fire you would have to be very close to the ignition point and even the wind and conditions would have to be right. Long story short you would have to have a a lot of things go the wrong way to be in that position.
 
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bobpbx

Piney
Staff member
Oct 25, 2002
13,102
3,325
Pines; Bamber area
I’m no expert on fire ecology nor can I speak on behalf of the FFS but I do know a thing or two on fire behavior in the pines. If your on that road and a fire started on 539 you’d have an hour or so before the fire reached you even with a wind driven fire. To be over taken by a fire you would have to be very close to the ignition point and even the wind and conditions would have to be right. Long story short you would have to have a a lot of things go the wrong way to be in that position.
Thanks, I was hoping you'd contribute to this discussion. I was not on that road, I was just showing the firebreak. But how about here, where I was 2 days ago, on the Stafford Township line. Could I cook? I am from .4 to .6 mi from 539. RT= D, so if you had a 15 mph breeze driving the flames, it would reach that line real quick like. And, I have to drive that line to the NW to get out of the woods.

1661044831280.png
 
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smoke_jumper

Piney
Mar 5, 2012
1,288
744
Atco, NJ
Thanks, I was hoping you'd contribute to this discussion. I was not on that road, I was just showing the firebreak. But how about here, where I was 2 days ago, on the Stafford Township line. Could I cook?

View attachment 17973
Only if you sat in your chair and watched it coming. With a fire due west of you and a west wind it would still take a bit and all you have to do is drive either direction and you’d be out of immediate danger.
 

bobpbx

Piney
Staff member
Oct 25, 2002
13,102
3,325
Pines; Bamber area
In here John, it says the fire spread 200 feet per minute. That would reach the road in 13 minutes, and if it started north of me? Note that I have nowhere to go South. The road does not cross that cedar swamp.


Don't get me wrong, your estimates do give me some comfort.
 

smoke_jumper

Piney
Mar 5, 2012
1,288
744
Atco, NJ
That’s at its peak and it was blowing something like 40 mph. My 4 cylinder work van can go 90 mph but it takes a while to get there. It doesn’t start 200 feet per min right off ignition.
 

smoke_jumper

Piney
Mar 5, 2012
1,288
744
Atco, NJ
If you were to lay down in the middle of the road when you first saw smoke you would probably be run over by a FFS truck before the fire got you lol but that’s just my opinion.
 

smoke_jumper

Piney
Mar 5, 2012
1,288
744
Atco, NJ
I highly doubt they would drive onto that road chasing that fire.

View attachment 17974Your
You’re right that is a tight road and a lot of fuel. If they were driving down that road they would be lighting one side and push straight through. There are alot of variables and I’d only be speculating on how to attack a fire in that area. Basically what I’m saying is you will have a little more time then you think. I wouldn’t want to be down wind of a fire in the pine plains that’s for sure but they aren’t extremely common. To the best of my knowledge no body has been killed by just in the pines when a forest fire broke out.
 
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Wildland937

Scout
Aug 24, 2016
52
21
New Germany
It's not up to the Forest Fire Service for exact forest management, its up to the state foresters. The FFS may choose to burn certain areas they feel a need or has a higher priority for one reason or another. But ultimately it's uo to the tree folks I would assume...
 
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