Wednesday, December 11, 2019

LawCo admits area is ripe for weaponized wildfire


Photo shot of 2002 Grizzly Gulch Fire from '59 burn: spot fire on Pillar Peak, at least a mile downwind of main fire

Much of the 2002 Grizzly Gulch Fire outside Deadwood occurred on ground owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the 60th anniversary of the 1959 Deadwood Hill Fire was just recently commemorated but because of Senator John Thune (NAZI-SD) costs of conducting prescribed burns are now thousands of dollars per acre instead of hundreds.
It’s been nearly a decade since the county updated its Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP)/Firewise in 2012 and much has changed since that time, prompting county officials to make redevelopment of the document a priority for 2020. Rob Mattox, wildland interface specialist, and Paul Thomson Lawrence County emergency management director, spoke about the proposed update with the county commission, beginning with a funding update on the BLM-funded Community Assistance Program (CAP). As part of the CWPP, roads are also buffered. For example, there are areas, such as Galena, that are simply too steep to reach for fuels treatments. Municipalities, Terry Valley and Deer Mountain subdivisions were high on the list. “The areas with more density was higher on the list for prioritization,” Mattox said, adding that the structure layer would be used to update the CPWW for the different buffers and reprioritization, taking new developments into account. [County to update wildfire protection plan]
Keystone, Hot Springs, Custer, Pringle, Argyle, Hill City, Hisega, Rochford, Nemo, Galena, Silver City, Hanna, Cheyenne Crossing, Savoy, Deadwood, Lead, Whitewood, Newcastle, Alva, Aladdin, Hulett even parts of Sundance, Rapid City, Piedmont, Sturgis and Spearditch are at extreme risk from the tactical use of wildfire. Just six strategically-placed improvised fuel air explosives (FAEs) deployed during red-flag conditions have the potential to create a firestorm that would be virtually unstoppable.

Recall the 2016 Crow Peak Fire affected mostly Republican landowners who built in the wildland-urban interface and begged the feds to protect their properties.

Most of the vegetation on some 274,000 surface acres in the South Dakota BLM Field Office is prairie grassland or juniper woodlands but the trees at the Fort Meade Recreation Area are mostly ponderosa pine and bur oak. Around Lead and Deadwood pine and oak are mixed with spruce, birch, and quaking aspen.
A group of retired top officials from the Bureau of Land Management is in Washington, D.C., this week criticizing the agency’s planned relocation out West. In a statement, the BLM says they are moving ahead with the relocation and have cooperated with Congress at all points. [Wyoming Public Radio]
When the Custer Expedition came through the Black Hills in 1874 bringing invasive cheatgrass for their horses stands of ponderosa pine were sparsely scattered but a century and a half of poor ranching and land management practices have created an unnatural overstory best controlled by the mountain pine beetle, prescribed fires and periodic wildfires. The bug is hard at work clearing centuries of overgrowth throughout the Rocky Mountain Complex, so is the western spruce budworm. But leaving dead and dying conifers on the forest produces methane, an even more dangerous greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide is.

If you live in the wildland-urban interface government can't always protect you from your own stupidity. Volunteer fire departments are irreplaceable as first responders to unexpected blazes and if the Federal Emergency Management Agency survives a Trump presidency it should convince Congress to make sure the resources are there to sustain rural firefighters.

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