Planning For, and Aging Forest Fires of the Boise National Forest
As we walked along with our focus largely on the beautiful trout stream on our right-hand side, we mistakenly missed all the signs we were quickly approaching a sizeable area previously burned in a forest fire.
Suddenly, for as far as the eye could see, there were what seemed to be Lodgepole Pines now pale and largely stripped of their usual towering evergreen-ness. The ground cover was suddenly, and oddly, sparse.
"I wonder when this all burned?" I asked my friend, stopping to wipe my brow. The temperature seemed to have risen 10 degrees in minutes.
Now fully exposed, we stopped for a quick break. We wondered to ourselves, "I wonder how you can tell how long ago a forest fire occurred? Besides memorizing every single fire ever (impossible), we wanted to know how can someone could age the length of time since a fire occurred?
We were very lucky that we did not bring our dogs on this hike, seeing as we were expecting heavy forest cover and the animals would have quickly overheated without any shade. We didn't want that to happen again. So, when we got home, we did some research.
The long and short of it is, the process of aging a forest fire is a highly complicated process involving aging the trees by their rings, and marking the changes in the rings, and then cross-referencing those changes with surrounding trees to draw conclusions about when, and how many fires occurred.
In Flames In Our Forest: Disaster or Renewal, by Stephen F. Arno, the author notes that it is often possible to discover pre-1900 fires by intensely studying the stumps of trees, even if they have been cut or fell for logging.
While this was fascinating, we quickly decided we would have to narrow our search. We retraced where we were, and jumped on the Boise National Forest website.
There, we found this incredible feature that shows burn areas, by decade, throughout the entire Boise National Forest.
If we had seen this before, we could have known, at least up to 2018, what patches of forest were likely to be suffering from significant fire scarring.
Now, forests recover at different rates, especially depending on the intensity of the fire and the makeup of the forest itself.
While this may not be valuable information to a lot of people, it's VERY valuable information to some people.
For more information on the process, and timing of forest recovery, check out this summary from Frontline Defense Systems.