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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 09-06-2014, 09:52 AM   #5
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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   #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".
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   #7
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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   #8
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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, 03:12 PM   #9
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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   #10
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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, 03:56 PM   #11
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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   #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.
Yes, your're quite right. I had forgotten about those two.
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Old 09-06-2014, 08:14 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.
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 09-06-2014, 10:54 PM   #14
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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   #15
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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   #16
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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 09-07-2014, 07:16 AM   #17
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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
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Old 09-08-2014, 05:52 AM   #18
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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."
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Old 09-08-2014, 08:26 AM   #19
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"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.
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Old 09-08-2014, 08:51 AM   #20
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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.
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