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-   -   Are the Great Fires of the ADK a thing of the Past? (http://www.adkforum.com/showthread.php?t=20665)

cityboy 09-06-2014 07:20 AM

Are the Great Fires of the ADK a thing of the Past?
 
Just got done reading about the Great ADK fires of 1903 and 1908. Opinions I've read about a re-occurrence in the near future are mixed. Any thoughts?

adkman12986 09-06-2014 07:38 AM

With the micro burst and dead wood on the forest floors added to the increase use of the land I would guess that it is very likely.

cityboy 09-06-2014 08:22 AM

According to some experts the answer is no. They cite the following reasons:

1. Decrease in Logging
2. Use of best practices in Logging
3. Lack of coal burning locomotives creating sparks

"It’s generally accepted that the main reason fires were so awful in 1903 and 1908 was that loggers left huge piles of slash behind them: bark, branches, twigs, etc. This dried up and became tinder waiting for a spark. The sparks often came from the other significant distinction between now and then: coal burning locomotives, with no controls on sparks. After the great fires, state foresters noticed that they were far worse in the slash zones. The state passed a lopping law (requiring that debris be cut up and left on the forest floor, where it would rot more quickly), and regulations on locomotives were passed."

On the other hand Western States like California seem to be seeing an increase in fires and presumably are using best lumbering practices too and have no coal burning trains either.

montcalm 09-06-2014 08:29 AM

drought

dundee 09-06-2014 09:52 AM

What Cityboy said is true. Logging in NY is not what is was a century (and longer) ago, . We now have better firefighting techniques; aerial water drops and there are more folks in the backcountry to spot a fire when it first starts.

We will still have small fires due to careless campers, drought, lightning strikes, but it's generally thought that we won't have the fires of years past.

The ADKs have often ben called the "asbestos forest".

cityboy 09-06-2014 10:18 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by dundee (Post 221867)
What Cityboy said is true. Logging in NY is not what is was a century (and longer) ago, . We now have better firefighting techniques; aerial water drops and there are more folks in the backcountry to spot a fire when it first starts.

We will still have small fires due to careless campers, drought, lightning strikes, but it's generally thought that we won't have the fires of years past.

The ADKs have often ben called the "asbestos forest".

I've heard that term before and wondered if it referred to the predominant tree type. I imagine California has much different species than the Adirondacks.

On the "Yes" side they mention the increase in droughts and severe weather plus rising temperatures.

azimuth 09-06-2014 11:43 AM

The fuel loading is there, the topography is there but we rarely have the drought conditions needed lower the fuel moisture content to level that would facilitate a large uncontrollable fire. I think prior to man most ADK fires moved slowly, they would run when the weather was dry than smolder for a while before hitting a barrier like a lake or river or winter snow arrived and they would go out. Slower moving surface fires and really slow moving ground fires more the norm here than fast moving crown fires. A century or more between such events seems logical.

dundee 09-06-2014 01:07 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by cityboy (Post 221868)
I've heard that term before and wondered if it referred to the predominant tree type. I imagine California has much different species than the Adirondacks.

On the "Yes" side they mention the increase in droughts and severe weather plus rising temperatures.

I really can't say about CA, but many ecosystems are meant to burn from time to time. Yellowstone is one example. Lodgepole Pines depend on fire to release seeds from the cones. CA may have similar species.

We could have drought and a rise in temp due to global warming, but still, fires here will not be as big as before.

Fuel is there to some degree, as Azimuth says, but it just rains too much here and there is a constant state of decay on our forest floor. Plus, two of componants (logging slash and coal sparks) are greatly redueced or gone.

redhawk 09-06-2014 03:12 PM

I don't think we can rule out the possibility. There have been so many changes weather wise the last few years that we should be prepared for anything.

Of course, we don't get the Santa Ana winds here that add to the problems in CA. As some have noted, we haven't had the drought. But it only takes a season for conditions to change radically and to our detriment I don't think that we have the preparedness that they do out west.

It was only a few years ago that they had serious fires in the Southeast if I recall correctly.

cityboy 09-06-2014 03:31 PM

Just did some further inquiry. Apparently the 1903 fire occurred in the spring and the 1908 happened in the fall. At that time they were both blamed on separate causes. The 1903 was considered an act of God since it was the result of 70+ days of drought. The 1908 was attributed to humans because it happened during peak logging activity and was ignited by sparks from trains.

I can just imagine what newspapers would say if the 1903 occurred today.

fvrwld 09-06-2014 03:56 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by dundee (Post 221873)
I really can't say about CA, but many ecosystems are meant to burn from time to time. Yellowstone is one example. Lodgepole Pines depend on fire to release seeds from the cones. CA may have similar species.

Fire is crucial to the health of the Sequoia forest.

There are some ecosystems in the northeast that are fire-dependent. One of these is the Albany Pine Bush.

dundee 09-06-2014 04:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by fvrwld (Post 221878)
Fire is crucial to the health of the Sequoia forest.

There are some ecosystems in the northeast that are fire-dependent. One of these is the Albany Pine Bush.

Yes, your're quite right. I had forgotten about those two.

Justin 09-06-2014 08:14 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by fvrwld (Post 221878)
Fire is crucial to the health of the Sequoia forest.

There are some ecosystems in the northeast that are fire-dependent. One of these is the Albany Pine Bush.

I'm not so sure I can 100% agree with this.
Perhaps today the Pine Bush is indeed now fire-dependent , but I grew up playing, hiking, and riding my bike in several areas throughout the Pine Bush. Things have never been the same since they started burning it up some 20+ years ago, including the ever worsening tick issue.

Glen 09-06-2014 10:54 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by cityboy (Post 221877)

I can just imagine what newspapers would say if the 1903 occurred today.

Give it a rest. Haven't you trolled enough lately?

cityboy 09-07-2014 05:01 AM

Glen it is a common human trait to look at random events dissect them and place blame. As I pointed out the two historical events were blamed on separate causes. If either event were to occur today I think we know who would be blamed but that is not what this discussion is about.

The question was could it occur today? In order for it to happen conditions and events would have to just right. Here are three things I see as key.

Important ingredients.

1. Atmospheric
2. Abundant Fuel
3. Igniter

The simple answer is that given enough time anything can happen. It might take a couple of centuries but I personally think the answer is yes it can happen.

cityboy 09-07-2014 06:18 AM

To continue my thought lets take the easiest first. Ignitor (source of ignition).
Now granted there are few trains running through the Adirondacks but there are many more people nowadays too.

According to what I read many of the fires out west were started by lightning strikes. Many more are started by people either intentional or unintentional. In fact, I remember reading a statement that you could always tell when the fires would start. As soon as the weathermen declared an official start of fire season the fires would start shortly thereafter.

So it appears that today there is no shortage of ignitors to provide that “spark”.

Justin 09-07-2014 07:16 AM

Of course, there's always the carelessness of others that we have to watch out for. Things may have gotten severely out of control if my father and I were not around on this day: http://adkforum.com/showthread.php?t...highlight=duff

cityboy 09-08-2014 05:52 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Justin (Post 221897)
Of course, there's always the carelessness of others that we have to watch out for. Things may have gotten severely out of control if my father and I were not around on this day: http://adkforum.com/showthread.php?t...highlight=duff

Great story and good job! Sounds like you have a future in Wildfire fighting.

I wonder if NYS has the Professional Wilderness Fire Fighting units that the West does. Since we don't get them very often I think not.

To further prove my case that the Ignitors are not a problem here is a quote from a DEC press release in July 2012.

"The vast majority of blazes this summer have been triggered by recreational campfires, but the DEC says two of the biggest fires were sparked by a lightning strike and by operations of the scenic railroad between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid."

toothlessannie 09-08-2014 08:26 AM

"I wonder if NYS has the Professional Wilderness Fire Fighting units that the West does."

Read the story on page 24 of the August 2014 edition of DEC's Conservationist magazine.

fvrwld 09-08-2014 08:51 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Justin (Post 221886)
I'm not so sure I can 100% agree with this.
Perhaps today the Pine Bush is indeed now fire-dependent , but I grew up playing, hiking, and riding my bike in several areas throughout the Pine Bush. Things have never been the same since they started burning it up some 20+ years ago, including the ever worsening tick issue.

Being a healthy and natural ecosystem doesn't necessarily mean that it is the best habitat for human play. I think also that we would have to go back to prior to our lifetime in order to see it in its natural state. Educate yourself as to what a healthy inland pitch pine - scrub oak barrens ecosystem (of which only 20 exist in the world) looks like and you then might see the improvement. A trip to the visitor center is a good start.

cityboy 09-10-2014 02:03 PM

I don't see "Fuel" as a problem either. I'm not sure how much of the forest make-up has changed since the early 1900's but I did read this:

"Adirondack Park contains the largest areas of original red pine and eastern white pine in the world and one of the largest areas of original forest in the United States".

So as far as tree species are concerned it might not have changed all that much but I'm no expert.

I think too that with the establishment of the Park and its discouragement of logging operations might also have allowed a buildup of potential fuel too.
The fact that no major fires since 1908 have occurred could indicate there is a growing source of fuel.

Again, just my opinion.

Vinegar 09-10-2014 02:30 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by cityboy (Post 222010)
I think too that with the establishment of the Park and its discouragement of logging operations might also have allowed a buildup of potential fuel too.

Logging is alive and well in the park. Clear cutting millions of acres has been discouraged, yes, but not logging.

What type and how much "fuel" constitutes a dangerous scenario ("buildup")? How much of that is generated (a year, a decade, whatever) in fire prone areas of the park? Where are the fire prone areas of the park, for that matter? What events are likely to start a wildfire? What is the likelihood of those events occurring? What natural and artificial factors will affect a fire's spread? How will they affect the spread?

Ordin Aryguy 09-10-2014 03:31 PM

Unless knee deep in water, I haven't stood in a single place in the entire Adirondack park that that isn't positively ripe with fuel. Blow down is everywhere. The duff is often at least a foot thick. The canopy is a solid mass extending over many square miles.

If someone were to design a place that's more likely to have a large scale fire, they would have do nothing more than copy the ADK's.

The ADK's are a single drought away from a cleansing by fire.


Ordin

Cold River Bob 09-10-2014 04:45 PM

Ordin Aryguy You are right about the Blow downs etc. You take the pines buy Shattacks an the Calkins creek trail meet at the river.that the Micro burst blow over an are feet thick , an cover a good many acres, an as dry tinder an some carless hiker or a lightning strike. I hope I never see it but it is a matter of time.

redhawk 09-10-2014 05:00 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ordin Aryguy (Post 222016)
Unless knee deep in water, I haven't stood in a single place in the entire Adirondack park that that isn't positively ripe with fuel. Blow down is everywhere. The duff is often at least a foot thick. The canopy is a solid mass extending over many square miles.

If someone were to design a place that's more likely to have a large scale fire, they would have do nothing more than copy the ADK's.

The ADK's are a single drought away from a cleansing by fire.


Ordin

Yep!!

And probably unprepared to deal with it.

Justin 09-10-2014 06:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by fvrwld (Post 221921)
Being a healthy and natural ecosystem doesn't necessarily mean that it is the best habitat for human play. I think also that we would have to go back to prior to our lifetime in order to see it in its natural state. Educate yourself as to what a healthy inland pitch pine - scrub oak barrens ecosystem (of which only 20 exist in the world) looks like and you then might see the improvement. A trip to the visitor center is a good start.

Ok thanks Val.
That whole parcel behind the Visitor Center is exactly where I was referring to, in between I90, 155, Rap Rd, and the railroad tracks.
I don't think I have to go quite that far back to remember what it was like then and how it is now. That little pond I used to fish at, and learned to bow hunt near is no longer there.
It just seems to me that things were never really the same after they started "managing" things and burning it up, which IIRC got out of control once or twice years ago. Some of the other areas of the Pine Bush that were never burned are doing just fine, and are basically the same as I remember them from when I was a kid.

mossarden 09-11-2014 09:23 AM

I learn so much from this forum...I was wondering about fires in the ADKs after that great recent fire tower map post ….

When I was a kid I remember visiting the tower on Prospect Mountain which was manned …The ranger had a little mule there…for transportation, I suppose….

The sparks from the old train engines, as mentioned, I’m sure were a major contributor to forest fires. I have a friend who lives near the train station in Riparious…and was always chuckling about the calamity of the old train engines that were used to facilitate the Riparious - North Creek tourist train. After a particularly dry spring in 2002 about 100 firefighters fought multiple brush fires one Sunday along those railroad tracks….. caused by the tourist train. The tourists on the train were treated to a scenic ride up to North Creek, then on the way back saw the woods burning on both sides of the track!

TEO 09-14-2014 10:49 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by fvrwld (Post 221878)
Fire is crucial to the health of the Sequoia forest.

There are some ecosystems in the northeast that are fire-dependent. One of these is the Albany Pine Bush.

Let's be clear though, not all fires are the same. The trees, such as the Sequoia, that use fire to reproduce need small fires. The massive fires that we've seen relatively recently in Yellowstone, the Southwest, & in California, are way too hot, and completely overwhelm the trees' defenses.

There's a big difference, too, between blowdowns & duff, and logging slash.

cityboy 09-15-2014 02:37 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by montcalm (Post 221866)
drought

I've found the following quote about Adirondack precipitation since the Great Fires.

"Since 1926, the Adirondacks received more precipitation in spring, summer, and fall, but significantly so only during the fall, as September, October, and November totals gained 0.5-0.9 inches. Of the monthly records, however, only August precipitation displayed a statistically significant increase during the last eight decades, the monthly total rising by approximately 1.19 inches."

The full report is here:

http://www.ajes.org/v15n2/stager2009.php


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