With Fire: a look at Fire Management
Fire can pose a serious threat to human
life and property. In Glacier, as in other National Park, some fires
will be always be suppressed (put out). These conditions include a
fire burning too near developed areas, a fire started when weather
conditions could lead to major fire growth, or when fire activity
is intense nationwide and there are limited national fire fighting
resources the park could call on for assistance. Any human-cased fire
will be suppressed, as will any fire that poses a serious risk of
burning outside of the park.
Some fires, started by nature's lightning, are closely monitored and
allowed to burn within limits. These are called Wildland Fire-Use
Fires. This term is used by fire managers to describe naturally ignited,
lightning-caused fires, which are carefully monitored within predetermined
areas in order to benefit park resources to the maximum extent possible.
While allowing fire as a natural process to continue is highly desirable,
firefighter and public safety and the protection of the park's historic
structures and other sensitive resources are of the highest priority
for all fires.
Under certain conditions, fire fighters plan, start and monitor fires
that will benefit the ecosystem. These intentional fires are called
Prescribed Natural Fires or Prescribed Burns, and are allowed to burn
within the limits laid out in detailed plans specific to an area.
fire managers look at implementing a plan, they do their best to make
sure the conditions are right to meet the goals of the plan. Some
of the factors considered are the following: Weather forecast, relative
humidity, temperature, wind speed, wind direction, moisture of the
vegetation and anticipated fire behavior.
fire is one of the most important tools used to manage fire
scientific prescription for the fire, prepared in advance, describes
its objectives, fuels, size, and the precise environmental conditions
under which it will burn. If the fire moves outside the predetermined
area, the fire will be suppressed. The fire may be designed to create
a mosaic of diverse habitats for plants and animals, to help an endangered
species recover, or to reduce fuels and thereby prevent a destructive
fire. Burning some areas in advance, thereby removing fuels from the
path of a future unwanted fire, can protect specific buildings, cultural
resources, critical natural resources, and habitat.
By counting tree
rings or by looking at ash layers in soil, Forest Ecologists have
studied how frequently fires burned historically in the different
vegetation types. They have learned that grassy areas, for example,
burned very frequently historically- as frequently as once every 18-25
years. They have also learned that long needled pine forests, like
Ponderosa Pine burned every 20 years or so. These short fire returns,
however, are the exception and most of Glaciers forested areas burn
once every 80-250 years. With this knowledge, managers can examine
different areas to see how long it has been since a fire burned there.
If it is determined that it has been too long since fire visited an
area, and, if fire can be used safely, fire managers may write a plan
for a prescribed burn.
Currently we have plans for several prescribed burns in the park.
Some examples of prescribed burns and goals include:
Igniting fires in Big Prairie in the North Fork to reduce conifers
that are taking over the prairie, and to reintroduce fire on a 20-25
year cycle, just as Native American's have been doing there for centuries.
Burning research plots in Whitebark Pine habitat to determine if fire
will help restore trees that have been decimated by the Blister Rust
Igniting controlled burns along the park boundary or developed areas
to reduce fuels and prevent unwanted wildfires from threatening structures
or leaving the park.