Mitigation is the password for anyone who wants to live in the mountains.
Experts say that forest fires are burning hotter and are more destructive than when the occasional fire came through and naturally mitigated downed wood and over-zealous ground cover. Today, we suppress fires at all costs and the cost becomes too high.
I have to admit the trees I have are not that appealing; they are tall lodgepole pines with spindly branches up towards the top of the tree. A neighbor who had lived here when a fire swept through a few decades ago said the area was covered with Ponderosa pines, trees that are lower to the ground with softer needles and a thicker shape. In the fire’s wake the lodgepoles took over and the relatively fire-proof aspens and the Ponderosa were choked out by the low-rent lodgepoles. I can see that where a fire came through and burned out the Ponderosa and lodgepoles took over. Near the back fence, the Ponderosa and a large aspen three thrive.
After covering fires in the mountain area for Evergreen Newspapers, I’ve learned much about wildfire. A story I did on the Inter-Canyon firefighters after the Lower North Fork Fire taught me many valuable lessons about fire: Fire will go where it wants and burn what it wants.
We still at least attempt mitigate to help stem the wave of fire that can sweep through and reduce a home to rubble, takes lives and leave a paperwork nightmare in its wake. Mitigation is the key.
To mitigate, as much slash, downed branches, sickly trees and debris needs to be removed. This can be time consuming and costly. The remnants of mitigation are hard to get rid of. You can either haul it off to one of the slash drives that local fire departments hold each summer, or you can haul it all the way down to Rooney Road, or you can rent a chipper.
Groups such as Firewise encourage mitigation and neighborhoods that organize into a Firewise community can receive grants for chippers and equipment and through a cooperative effort help each other to reduce fire fuels. In my neighborhood, we’re not that organized but if you need help, they will roll up their sleeves and pitch in. Mitigation isn’t cheap or easy but I have contracted for a mitigation specialist to come in and expertly cut down and remove the useless trees.
The plan for this year’s mitigation is cut down as much as a third of the trees in the Slight Unenchanted Forest and block and split the usable wood and run the smaller trees and slash through a chipper. The usable trees will be burned next year, hopefully piled nice and snug into a wood shed set to be built in the beginning of September 2012.
The first step for mitigation was to remove about 50 trees that was done in August 2012. Right now, they are neatly piled and ready to be cut or chipped.
Access for the chipper will be an issue – it sounds like a neighbor may or may not have issues with us crossing their property to get to the lower section of the SUF. I suppose it will depend on the day. The other option is to cut a small road in which a truck could haul a chipper down to where the slash is instead of moving the slash up to the driveway.
When it’s done it will be safer and the trees that remain will have a fighting chance to grow and flourish. Along with happier trees, the large elk and deer should have easier access and we’ve talked about putting a picnic table down there.
Can you just feel how many hours being a responsible homeowner can be? It’s sheer work to mitigate a property.
Time will tell.