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Unauthorized Drones Near a Wildfire can Cost and Kill

Recreational drones or Unmanned Aircraft Systems sometimes called UAS have become increasingly popular in the past few years. While this is an interesting hobby and can allow you to get beautiful aerial photography, some activities pose a significant hazard.

The use of these drones to capture video footage of wildfires is one of those hazardous activities.

Climate Change Intensifying Wildfire on National Forests

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that wildfires are more common during hot, dry summers. The area burned in the United States in 2015, over 10 million acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, occurred during a record temperature year for the Earth, plus record low snowpack and rainfall in some areas of the West.

The sizzling weather of 2015 was similar to what global climate models project for the year 2060. Last year’s weather and fire may become the new normal later in the 21st century.

Wildlife after Wildfire in Southern Appalachia

It was my first prescribed burn. After weeks of training and months of anticipation, I was finally on the ground – drip torch in hand – ready to apply fire to restore the mixed pine-hardwood forests at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains on the Pisgah National Forest.

Joining the U.S Forest Service only two months earlier, my knowledge of fire’s effect on plant and wildlife communities was limited. But as the coordinator for the Grandfather Restoration Project, part of the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program, I had to quickly come up to speed with the on-the-ground reality of prescribed fire use.

Managing Forests in the Face of Drought - There is Help!

Drought, especially prolonged or severe drought, can be a major stress in forest ecosystems.  Drought can kill trees directly or indirectly through insect attack or wildfire. Both of which are more likely to occur during drought.

Tree mortality impacts most of the ecosystem services provided by forests, including the amount of wood that grows, how much carbon is captured and stored, the health of critical wildlife habitat, water yield and quality, and even whether it’s safe to pursue recreational activities such as hiking or hunting.

Wildfire Smoke Monitors Working to Reduce Health and Safety Impacts

Smoke from wildfires can have an enormous impact on the public and on fire personnel, affecting health, interfering with transportation safety and upsetting tourism and local economies.

Trent Procter, like all U.S. Forest Service Air Resource Advisors, is a technical specialist with expertise in air quality science, including: air quality monitoring, smoke modeling, pollutant health thresholds and communicating about smoke risks and mitigation.

Being Fire Wise is an Easy Way to Prepare for Fire Season

We’ve all seen the heart-wrenching images on TV: lives and property destroyed by wildland fire.  And, this fire season, with over eight million acres burned, we are seeing these images more frequently.

Most of us think nothing can be done to protect a home from the onslaught of a raging wildland fire. Don’t be fooled, there is a way to protect your home.  The U.S. Forest Service calls it Fire Wise.

The Cost of Fighting Wildfires is Sapping Forest Service Budget

Cross-posted from the Seattle Times:

Wildfires are now burning in Washington and across the West, in a year that may become the hottest on record. As our forests go up in flames, so too does the budget of the U.S. Forest Service, putting at risk lives, property, clean air and water, and jobs for thousands.

The number of fires the Forest Service and its partners fight every year is staggering: There have been more than 36,000 fires this year alone. And although we are successful at suppressing or managing 98 percent of fires when they start, the 1 to 2 percent of fires that escape are expensive, constituting 30 percent of annual costs.

Wildfire-Related Tragedy Leads to Landmark Forest Restoration Partnership

The Schultz Fire of 2010 started with an abandoned campfire. High winds blew the flames into neighboring trees and brush, igniting a wildfire that would grow to 15,000 acres of the Coconino National Forest and threaten residents near Flagstaff, Arizona. In the following days 750 homes would be evacuated. It took 300 firefighters several weeks to contain the fire in the steep slopes North and East of the city.

Flagstaff had been spared from fire, but not its aftermath. In July 2010, heavy flooding due to monsoonal rain events on the burned-over slopes of the San Francisco Peaks caused an estimated $133-147 million in damage to neighborhoods just outside the city.  A 12-year-old girl, Shaelyn Wilson, was killed when she was swept away in a flash flood.

Drones can be Deadly for Wildland Firefighters

Imagine if a hostile country sent an Unmanned Aircraft System or UAS, otherwise known as a drone, to disturb the efforts of firefighters during a catastrophic wildfire. The confusion that might ensue could cause loss of life and property as flames jump fire lines simply because resources have been diverted or grounded to identify and remove the UAS.

But these threats aren’t coming from an enemy state. They are being flown by our own citizens and impeding the job of our firefighters.  This isn’t a script for a Hollywood film. It’s really happening.

Recently, unauthorized drones disrupted wildfire operations in southern California twice in one week. Because of these drones, Airtanker operations were suspended on both the Sterling Fire and Lake Fire on the San Bernardino National Forest.

In Recently Burned Forests, a Woodpecker's Work is Never Done

Following a wildfire, some might see dead trees. Woodpeckers see possibilities.

The black-backed woodpecker is one such bird—a burned forest specialist—who readily chooses fire-killed trees (snags) in which to drill cavities for nesting and roosting.

When the woodpecker moves on, its cavity turns into valuable habitat for other forest-dwelling species.