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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I can't help it. It makes me mad.

UDWR spent a bunch of money -- OUR MONEY -- restoring and renovating the EF Sevier headwaters with native cutthroat trout over the last few years. It's a great project, and was much needed.

In April of 2022 Wildland Fire Managers conducted a prescribed burn (4/7/2022) of slash piles in Left Fork.
On May 10 the USFS acknowledged that the Left Fork fire was started from remnant heat from the prescribed fire.
On May 13 the USFS noted they "mopping up" the Left Fork fire, but would keep crews around for several days to patrol for smoke and complete the fire mop-up.

By June 18, the Left Fork fire was ~2600 acres in size. Today it's about 4,000 acres. The fire is currently listed as "Human caused". They fail to note that the humans that started the fire did so intentionally, attempted to put the fire out (inept), and allowed the fire to just start back up and grow (ignorant). These humans also all work for the USFS.



I know I'm often cynical, particularly with fires. But, it sure makes a person wonder if the USFS, along with other State agencies that like fire, possible wanted to avoid going through the NEPA process of doing a "real" prescribed burn, and thus just got permission to burn some slash piles in April of a mega-drought year full-well knowing winds were on the way that would eventually get the fire raging and burn a bunch of areas that they couldn't get permission to burn in the first place? And, oh-by-the-way, kill a bunch of fish and destroy a bunch of habitat that the came at the expense of Utah anglers?

Garfield County Sheriff Danny Perkins said:
“I don't like starting fires in the spring because of this reason,” he said. “That's just my opinion, there's a lot of opinions out there and they've done this practice for years. This is nothing new, but we are in extreme drought, and so I don’t know … I’m just not too warm and fuzzy about it.”

My question concerning the USFS starting the Left Fork fire is simply, are they incompetent? Ignorant? or do they just plain intentionally set forest fires?
It sure seems like these intentionally started prescribed burns are becoming problems more and more often. It's a shame that the FS isn't ever held accountable for them, like any other individual that started a "human caused" fire would be...

I hate fire season.
 

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I've known fuels and fire managers in the USFS and not one would start a prescribed fire that they knew would intentionally get out of control. Not only that but they have to get higher up approval for lighting because of things like regional climate patterns and wind not even at the site. It's a cumbersome though imperfect process.

And sadly part of that imperfection is the "science" of it requires management with incomplete information. Personally I would have loved to see all but the most critical and stable approved burns to be have cancelled in the West this year because of scenarios like this. Yet I can't get but so upset when honest mistakes are made. It sucks all around but sometimes the worst happens and we hope they learn from it.

Per accountability, what good comes from anything punitive or compensatory? If you sue the USFS for compensation who benefits, ie what program gets shorted in the process? Do we want personnel acting in good faith to be held accountable for odds an agency deemed acceptable? Who is going to take such a federal job in which they can be sued for something other than gross negligence or malicious intent?

I sincerely hope they shutdown prescribed burns this year. There is more and more talk in the community that we may be in an era in which the risk is now greater than the reward. But it takes a while to slow down such institutional behavior; it's not ideal but it's reality. And the side effect if they do shut it down will also be negative as countless forests need to burn and habitat will suffer. But that seems to be just one of the costs of this drought and climate change.

Our forests and fisheries are in peril.

*PS: per "human caused", if we are thinking of the same type of designation, makes complete sense for notation. It doesn't eliminate accounting anywhere else. It's administrative references. But maybe I'm thinking of a different type of reference.
 

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I had a local firefighter here in Moab tell me they made them stand down on the La Sal fire last year when they had it nearly put out. They went back up and got threatened with their jobs. That fire burned for days after that. Is it for budget growth? I would love to see a real investigation of all the fires that have been happening.

And they will say it's all because of global warming.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I've known fuels and fire managers in the USFS and not one would start a prescribed fire that they knew would intentionally get out of control.
So, it was incompetence? Or ignorance? We eliminated intentions.

Damned if they do, Damned if they don't.
So a lightning strike that gets out of control is ok? Truth is most of it needs to burn.
this is a "big game" response. From an angler perspective: no. It doesn't need to burn.
A lightning strike caused fire is something we can't control -- but a prescribe burn in April during a mega-drought? Again: incompetence or ignorance.



As for accountability: I'd love to see the FS step up and cover recovery damages to the fisheries this fire destroys. But that won't happen.

Like I said: i hate fire season.
 

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[QUOTE="PBH, post: 2249721, member: 6433"

As for accountability: I'd love to see the FS step up and cover recovery damages to the fisheries this fire destroys. But that won't happen.

[/QUOTE]

Uncle Joe said he would pay all expenses in regards to the Hermits Peak Fire in NM caused by a prescribed burn. Why not hit him up for the Left Fork?

My understanding is the FS has put all prescribed burns on hold until further notice after Hermits Peak flared up. I think they are listening to you. But one way or the other it will burn eventually. And the longer it goes without the worse the outcome.
 

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I had a local firefighter here in Moab tell me they made them stand down on the La Sal fire last year when they had it nearly put out. They went back up and got threatened with their jobs. That fire burned for days after that. Is it for budget growth? I would love to see a real investigation of all the fires that have been happening.

And they will say it's all because of global warming.
A lot of fires are managed for less than full suppression. Depends on what values are threatened.
 

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PBH,

Those aren't the only remaining conclusions.

It could be that the variables they couldn't control for won the statistical lottery. They could have done everything by the book risk evaluation wise and that low level risk just panned out.

Have you ever mopped up a fire? The crews are normally really good at it but they are humans and could have accidentally missed a small smolder. It's amazing how long a small smolder can last to eventually blow up under the right future conditions.

I totally get being pissed. I know I'm disappointed. There is some cool stuff in that territory & I had looked forward to seeing it. Multiple agencies have put in a ton of man hours to reclaim several drainages and they are now imperiled.

Sometimes poop just happens. Unless reports come back with evidence of some sort malpractice or malintent I'm not willing to assume the worst of these public servants. If those come to light I'll definitely support administrative and legal consequences.
 

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I had a local firefighter here in Moab tell me they made them stand down on the La Sal fire last year when they had it nearly put out. They went back up and got threatened with their jobs. That fire burned for days after that. Is it for budget growth? I would love to see a real investigation of all the fires that have been happening.

And they will say it's all because of global warming.
The pattern 100% fits in with the consequences of global warming but you can never blame one event on AGW (issue with casualty).

Fire crews are always at the mercy of the incident command team when it comes to overall strategy. Any team that was unilaterally trying to manage the fire according to what they believe is best would be a danger to themselves, others and possibly the habitat. Threatening job termination is 100% appropriate.

As MF said they manage fires for multiple purposes and there were huge swaths of dead timber and post-climax forest all through the La Sals. It's very possible they thought it best for the habitat (or required by law to let it burn).
 

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I'm generally supportive of the science behind controlled burns, but I do have to admit there are some WT# moments in seeing some of the burns in action. About 15 years ago, some genius decided to do a controlled burn near Deer Creek Reservoir on a day when a major wind event was forecast. To nobodys surprise, the fire got out of hand and filled Utah Valley with smoke. As an asthmatic, those things bug me and my breathing, but I remember checking on my neighbor with health problems and he was having a really rough go of it. Another time, when dad was alive, he and I were hunting deer on the Boulders above Antimony. There is a road that goes out of Mud lake that goes up on top. Without breaking some laws there aren't too many ways to get on or off the mountain besides that road. We were coming off for lunch and ran into a FS truck starting a burn right in the narrow valley that road goes through. If they got it going, it could have been a significant issue for us. As it was, it had recently rained and they accomplished little besides scorching a few 250 year old ponderosa trunks.

I guess my point is that there do seem to be some frustrating issues in the execution of fire policy and some scrutiny is deserved. PBH, sorry that fire messed up some fisheries you are invested in.
 

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The FF told me they had a two hour meeting about “how” to fight the fire and it was full blown by the time they started fighting it.
Such meetings are common and critical. Sending human resources into a fire without an appropriate plan is a recipe for loss of life.

That was especially true for the Pack Creek fire as winds that day (Wednesday, June 9) were shifty and it almost immediately started exhibiting extreme fire behavior. The crews were forced off the fire (Thu morning June 10) for such reasons.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
PBH,

Those aren't the only remaining conclusions.

It could be that the variables they couldn't control for...
So we are back to incompetence? We can talk about uncontrollable variables all we want. The fact is that slash piles were intentionally set on fire in April (April, May, June are windiest months of year!) of a mega-drought!

backcountry said:
It's amazing how long a small smolder can last to eventually blow up under the right future conditions.
Again -- so why are we starting fires when we've known for over a year that fire conditions are extremely high?
So, are we back to ignorance, or intention?

This current fire is certainly NOT a "poop happens" situation. Just like the Garfield County Sheriff said -- these prescribed burns should not be happening in the spring, but rather in the late fall when risks of variables they can't control are much lower.


This is no different than the Sanford fire on Mt. Dutton from 2002. So, what have we learned since that fire? Nothing! A quote from 2002: "Why is the FS setting fires in the worst drought year we've known? It borders on stupidity or gross negligence." [Denise Boggs].

The Sanford fire, a prescribed burn started in April of 2002, ended up burning over 78,000 acres. $6 million dollars was spent suppressing that "wildfire". Utah lost a Bonneville cutthroat trout fishery, along with portions of the EF Sevier due to that fire. To this day, we still do not have that Bonneville cutthroat trout fishery in Deep Creek.

20 years later we are looking at a very similar situation. What's changed? Nothing. We'll spend a whole bunch of money fighting this fire, as well as others. We'll lose a fishery, but gain a whole bunch of big game habitat. That fishery will suffer from rainstorms, erosion, ash, etc. for years to come. We'll see commercials and pamplets and other propaganda showing statistics of how many forest fires are human caused, but they won't say how many of those human caused fires were intentionally started by the very people who are paid to also fight them.


There is something wrong with this system.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Uncle Joe said he would pay all expenses in regards to the Hermits Peak Fire in NM caused by a prescribed burn. Why not hit him up for the Left Fork?
I'm sure that funding will be provided to suppress the fire. But what won't happen is the numerous years of rehabilitation it will take to recover that fishery and the coming possible damage from monsoon thunderstorms later in the year falling on the burned hillsides washing ash and mud into the streams, changing them forever. We'll never see those funds.

But I'm sure we'll hear plenty about how "good" that fire is for our forests.
 

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"Summary: The Hermits Peak Fire began April 6 as a result of the Las Dispensas prescribed fire on the Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District of the Santa Fe National Forest. Although forecasted weather conditions were within parameters for the prescribed fire, unexpected erratic winds in the late afternoon caused multiple spot fires that spread outside the project boundary. It was declared a wildfire at approximately 4:30 p.m. on April 6, 2022. Named the Hermits Peak Fire, the wildfire began approximately 12 miles northwest of Las Vegas, NM at the base of Hermits Peak in the Pecos Wilderness. The Hermits Peak Fire is burning through mixed conifer in steep, rugged terrain that poses challenges for firefighter access.

The Calf Canyon Fire was caused by a pile burn holdover from January that remained dormant under the surface through three winter snow events before reemerging in April. A holdover fire, also called a sleeper fire, is a fire that remains dormant for a considerable time."   Bold is my emphasis.

It looks to me like best practice was used in both cases when starting the burns. Yes "poop" happens.

Dixie National Forest is near the end of planning a 5 year prescribed fire plan. They are proposing up to 32,000 acres per year. Hang on to your hat.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
It looks to me like best practice was used in both cases when starting the burns. Yes "poop" happens.
If "best practice" is to intentionally start a fire at the beginning of fire season, then I guess "best practice" needs to be updated.

Maybe the Calf Canyon fire should have been started in November?

Starting fires in April during mega-droughts is just plain asking for a prescribed burn to turn into a wildfire.
 

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Need to look at what the management objectives are when trying to find the rationale behind a prescribed burn:


What were the objectives for the Left Fork?
That will be interesting to find out and would definitely help in judging the decision. I assume it will be investigated both internally and likely publicly.
 

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So we are back to incompetence? We can talk about uncontrollable variables all we want. The fact is that slash piles were intentionally set on fire in April (April, May, June are windiest months of year!) of a mega-drought!



Again -- so why are we starting fires when we've known for over a year that fire conditions are extremely high?
So, are we back to ignorance, or intention?

This current fire is certainly NOT a "poop happens" situation. Just like the Garfield County Sheriff said -- these prescribed burns should not be happening in the spring, but rather in the late fall when risks of variables they can't control are much lower.


This is no different than the Sanford fire on Mt. Dutton from 2002. So, what have we learned since that fire? Nothing! A quote from 2002: "Why is the FS setting fires in the worst drought year we've known? It borders on stupidity or gross negligence." [Denise Boggs].

The Sanford fire, a prescribed burn started in April of 2002, ended up burning over 78,000 acres. $6 million dollars was spent suppressing that "wildfire". Utah lost a Bonneville cutthroat trout fishery, along with portions of the EF Sevier due to that fire. To this day, we still do not have that Bonneville cutthroat trout fishery in Deep Creek.

20 years later we are looking at a very similar situation. What's changed? Nothing. We'll spend a whole bunch of money fighting this fire, as well as others. We'll lose a fishery, but gain a whole bunch of big game habitat. That fishery will suffer from rainstorms, erosion, ash, etc. for years to come. We'll see commercials and pamplets and other propaganda showing statistics of how many forest fires are human caused, but they won't say how many of those human caused fires were intentionally started by the very people who are paid to also fight them.


There is something wrong with this system.
Like I said, I believe we are seeing a change in protocol to adapt to these new climate and environmental trends. It's just slow. And MF showed even burns in the autumn/winter get out of control. There is no risk free choice.

And, there is a lot of grey you are ignoring. Risk analysis is not as black and white as you claim. And the sheriff sitting on the outside doesn't have all the information nor the training to evaluate these burns.

I recognize your family has invested a lot of professional and personal time into the fisheries of S. Utah. It sucks to see the things/places you are invested in suffer. And, fisheries are just one element of the USFSs many responsibilities.
 
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