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Small trees most at risk from fire

Small trees most at risk from fire

Concerning Doug Donesky’s “Ban on logging not supported by study,” The Union, July 20, 2002. I have the study, so decided to give Doug’s interpretation a closer look. It appears Doug is guilty of cherry-picking, that is, picking out the information that supports his position. The full study is enlightening and should be interesting reading for anyone concerned about fire and wildfires. The title is “Decaying Logs as Moisture Reservoirs After Drought and Wildfire,” M.P. Amaranthus. If interested, write

We may not think much about it, but research shows it is the small diameter material like brush, twigs, limbs, needles, logging slash and small trees generally 10 inches or smaller that carry or “fuel” fast-moving wildfires. Consumption of large wood can occur when stacked and mixed with fine fuels.



Otherwise, without the radiant heat source to sustain ignition, large wood alone will either stop burning or smolder until completely consumed (Harmon, M.E.). The key point is wildfire feeds on small diameter fuels. I don’t think adjectives like “wild” and “fast” would not be applicable to large dead logs smoldering in place over extended periods.

I believe activist Chad Hanson accurately recounted what the many scientists have discovered about large deadwood and fire. The structures hold immense amounts of water, provide important wildlife habitats and enrich soils as they decay – like slow-release vitamins. According to Amaranthus, “When forest managers are analyzing for fire risk, they should take into account the high water content of fallen logs during periods in which wildfire potential is greatest. Class III logs in our study had a moisture content of 199 percent.”




I hope everyone can see the truth in Chad’s contention that if reducing risk of wildfires really is the goal, then we should be concentrating on thinning brush and small diameter trees.

James Woods

Penn Valley


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