I have never been happier to see blue skies. I’m hoping the searing heat and smoke are behind us. I’m cherishing the crisp morning air that comes with the turning of the seasons.
As we breathe in the fresh fall air, it may feel that the fires are out. In actuality, many fires are still smoldering. As the fires linger, I think about the enormous impact this fire season had on our community. From those fighting fire on the front lines to recreation outfitters and tourist-dependent businesses, I can’t think of anyone who wasn’t impacted.
Long-term climate forecasts are predicting warmer and drier summers in the Pacific Northwest, so we can expect more big fire seasons. Fortunately, there is much work that we can do to prepare our communities and our forests for future fires. (Check out the last Wild Side for my recommendations on how we move forward on that front.)
For now, the question I’m pondering is: How exactly did this year’s fires affect the great forests of the Klamath-Siskiyou?
This fall coworkers and I will head out and check out the impacts of the local fires. If you are interested, you can gather maps and find out what areas are still closed for safety on the website inciweb.nwcg.gov. There you will find a catalog of every fire and a description of the fire-fighting effort.
This year there will be no shortage of fires to explore. I plan to look at the fires in the Applegate Valley first, but there is also the High Cascades Fires near Crater Lake, the Horse Prairie Fire on industrial tree farms north of Grants Pass, and the Chetco Bar Fire near the Oregon Coast.
It is hard to get a real sense of what fire has done to the landscape from the evening news. Often the cameras zoom in on the most sensational shots of sky-high flames. If there is human tragedy or lost buildings, that is justifiably the focus. We often hear that fires have completely decimated forests; the forest is gone, wiped out, obliterated. While it’s true that fire can radically alter forests, nearly every forest you’ve ever set foot in was born of fire.
Fire is a natural process, and a necessary one. Many plants won’t survive without fire, and forests have co-evolved with fire for millennia. While many experts say that we are experiencing more fire as a result of climate change, it will be interesting to see the impacts of the 2017 fire season.
Fires burn at a mix of severity, especially here in this region. Sometimes the…