Is your forest ready for wildfire?

April 15, 2019

What a whirlwind of weather we have experienced this year! The historic February snowstorm, or “Snowmageddon,” has caused millions of dollars of damage to local infrastructure and forests. This includes fallen trees and mountains of woody debris, creating tangled messes in our forests.

The downed trees, limbs and debris (aka fuel) on the forest floor can impact your risk for future wildfire. The increase of fuel on the forest floor, coupled with rapid drying that will occur during the hot summer months, creates a recipe that is perfect for carrying wildfire through your forest.

Spring is the perfect time to get outside and reduce the buildup of fuel in your forest. But what do you do with all that woody material?

If you have enough volume of downed mature trees, you might be able to sell them to a local mill. Unmerchantable and small-diameter logs can be cut and/or sold for firewood. Another option is to hire a portable sawmill operator who can produce lumber from logs on your land for your personal use.

For the downed tops, limbs and other unsalvageable material, there are several options for disposal. You can cut and scatter the material and leave it on the forest floor. This method does not eliminate the fuels — it just redistributes them. They will remain a fire hazard until they decompose, so this is only recommended for areas where the ladder fuels and slash loads are light.

Woody material can also be cut, piled and burned. You can do this by hand or with mechanized equipment on gentle slopes. Pile burning has significant risks, and a landowner who does not follow burning restrictions and regulations may be held liable if a fire escapes and becomes a wildfire.

You may choose to chip some of the downed material left in your woods. Chipping is a very effective method of slash disposal and provides benefits such as increased soil moisture retention and inhibiting weed germination.

Lastly, if the material is close to a road, you might consider hauling the material away. This method is best-suited around homesites where access is easy.

If you would like to learn more about how to make your property more fire-resilient after the storm, sign up for Fire-Resilient Woodlands — a one day class offered this Saturday.

Speakers from OSU Extension and the Douglas Forest Protective Association (DFPA) will discuss:

Selective thinning for fuel reductionSlash management (e.g. pile burning, chipping) — with a pile building demonstrationTree friendly pruning techniques & demonstrationFire behaviorDefensible space & fire-wise practices around your home2019 DFPA fire season update

The Douglas County Extension Service, DFPA and Douglas Small Woodlands Association will offer Fire Resilient Woodlands from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the OSU Extension Annex, 1134 SE Douglas Ave., Roseburg. We will visit a local small woodland property to learn about some of these topics on the ground.

The cost is $10 per person or $15 per couple (sharing materials). Advance registration is required by Thursday.

Register for Fire Resilient Woodlands by visiting tinyurl.com/fire-resilient. You can also register by emailing douglas.extension@oregonstate.edu or calling 541-672-4461.