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Forest Service trying to reduce wildfires by burning slash piles

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Slash Piles

ISLAND PARK, Idaho (KIFI) - You may have seen piles like this while you have been out camping in the forest.

They’re called slash piles. 

They’re a type of fire mitigation that is designed to keep the forest healthy and prevent dangerous wildfires. 

Forest rangers and fire officials reduce the fuel in an area by safely burning highly flammable fuels like dead trees and pine needles.

“They basically reduce the fuel loading in this area to protect the structures that we have just to the west of here, and we have folks that come in here all year long and specifically in the summertime and so we’re trying to reduce the fuels to reduce the fire behavior to protect the campground and protect the residents that come in there to stay as well as to protect our firefighters," said Jon White, a fuels reduction specialist with the Caribou Targhee National forest.

The slash piles are manageable isolated piles that can be burned during the winter months of the year when there is less danger of starting a forest fire.

Fire officials use this technique to help protect structures or campgrounds or any vulnerable areas. They decide how to best reduce the fuels by looking around the area and seeing what kind of trees and fuels are present.

White explained how they assess the fire movement and what the best way would be to slow it down so that firefighters have the chance to stop it.

“Typically in that type of environment the fire wants to creep along the ground and then get up into the trees where I can easily do that from what’s called a ladder fuels are the limbs lower limbs of these trees it’ll climb up those lower limbs of the trees get into the trees able to spread from there under pretty windy conditions and that’s what we’re trying to prevent is the fire from getting into those are the upper canopy of the trees and creating was called the Crown fire situation that’s very difficult for us to suppress,” White said.

The slash pile burning is a very effective way to help reduce fires the problem is they need more of these projects.

"Unfortunately, there’s a limited number of folks that we have out in the woods that can do this throughout the year and a limited number of dollars that we have to be able to spend on this kind of thing, but we need more of it to prevent the larger fires from happening," White said.

The slash piles will be allowed to dry sometimes for up to a year. They are then burned in the winter months so there is less danger of igniting healthy trees. 

In a press release from the White House, the Federal Government has approved extending the seasonal firefighters hours so they can assist in fire prevention, they say because of climate change, wildland firefighting is no longer a seasonal endeavor. Fires are burning later into the season and temporary employees often reach their limited hours earlier in the year. They also approved an extension of the Forest Service’s (USFS) direct hire authority for wildland firefighters and support personnel. These proactive personnel management actions will help sustain the Nation’s vital Federal wildland firefighting capacity.  We also recognize the need for a sustainable long-term staffing approach into the future that offers more permanent, stable employment.

Linda Larsen

Linda Larsen

Linda is an anchor and reporter for Local News 8 and KIDK Eyewitness News 3.


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