Thread: Washbowl Fire
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Old 09-27-2019, 03:52 PM   #13
DSettahr's Avatar
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 5,091
Originally Posted by OntarioSkiBum View Post
Some of the descriptions of these fires have me curious. Does the non decomposed soil actually burn and smolder underground somewhat where it's unreachable or does it flare up at the surface level so fast that it can't be controlled. I'd have thought the latter, but some the descriptions have me wondering otherwise.
Either/or, depending on the conditions. Smoldering ground/soil fires are more common in the Adirondack ecosystem. I've worked on a couple of ADK wildfires, and when the soils get going they are a real pain in the heinie to put out. It's a lot of spray with water, stir the soils, spray with more water, stir the soils again, so on and so forth, over the course of hours or even days. And then, even after you think it's out, you still need to come back every day for a few days just to be sure.

Even worse is when you're dealing with decades (centuries) worth of accumulated organic material in rocky and ledgy terrain with plenty of cracks in the bedrock. Trying to get water down into each and every nook and cranny (most of which are stuffed with leaves and pine needles) in heavily fragmented rock outcrops can be nearly impossible.

If they aren't discovered and addressed, ground fires in the Adirondacks can smolder for weeks (or even months), waiting for the right conditions to turn into a surface fire (where the surface duff layer is actively becoming inflamed). Surface fires will spread a lot more quickly than a soil/ground fire.

And while crown fires of the like we typically associate with western wild fires- where the standing trees themselves are actively burning- are rare in the Adirondack ecosystem, they aren't unheard of either. The Noonmark fire that happened back in the 90's (which also was started by a campfire that wasn't safely contained to a proper fire pit) was a crown fire.
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