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Old 09-06-2014, 07:20 AM   #1
cityboy
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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?
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Old 09-06-2014, 07:38 AM   #2
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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.
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Old 09-06-2014, 08:22 AM   #3
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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.
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Old 09-06-2014, 08:29 AM   #4
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drought
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Old 09-15-2014, 02:37 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by montcalm View Post
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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Old 09-06-2014, 09:52 AM   #6
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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".
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Old 09-06-2014, 10:18 AM   #7
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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.
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Old 09-06-2014, 11:43 AM   #8
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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.
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Old 09-06-2014, 01:07 PM   #9
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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.
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Old 09-06-2014, 03:56 PM   #10
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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.
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Old 09-06-2014, 04:39 PM   #11
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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.
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Old 09-06-2014, 08:14 PM   #12
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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.
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Old 09-14-2014, 10:49 PM   #13
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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.
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Old 09-06-2014, 03:12 PM   #14
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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.
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Old 09-06-2014, 03:31 PM   #15
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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.
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Old 09-06-2014, 10:54 PM   #16
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I can just imagine what newspapers would say if the 1903 occurred today.
Give it a rest. Haven't you trolled enough lately?
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Old 09-07-2014, 05:01 AM   #17
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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.
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Old 09-07-2014, 06:18 AM   #18
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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”.
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Old 09-10-2014, 02:03 PM   #19
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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.
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Old 09-10-2014, 02:30 PM   #20
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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?
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