Photo Credit: More wildfire mitigation success stories, this time from New Jersey, Indiana, California Utah and Washington. Photo by Yosemite National Park

No one action can guarantee a favorable wildfire outcome, but there are more and more examples of investments in wildfire mitigation paying off. Take a look at our new and expanded list of wildfire mitigation investments that worked, and share your wins below as a comment!

1. New Jersey Pine Barrens

New Jersey experienced one of the first headline-making wildfires of the year, and the role of 2018’s prescribed fires tempering that wildfire was an important, yet understated, part of that story. Local residents are putting the puzzle pieces together, though, and were calling for more controlled burning before the wildfire was even fully contained.

2. Indiana Dunes National Park 

Sometimes older investments are put to the test by wildfire, while other times treatments are completed just in the nick of time. The latter was the case for Indiana Dunes National Park. This past March, the park completed a modest (16-acre) prescribed fire. Two weeks later, the controlled burn footprint was critical to wildfire response. Read Prescribed Fire Protects Douglas Center from Wildfire at Indiana Dunes National Park to learn more.

3. Winthrop, Washington 

Communities near the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest saw the fruit of 14 years’ worth of forest thinning and prescribed fire during two different wildfires that started on the same hot and day last August:

“ ‘Since 2004, we’ve been proactively thinning and burning strategic areas north of Winthrop to reduce risk and help restore the forest,’ said Matt Ellis, a district fire management officer with the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. ‘These efforts were tested and tried in a critical 24-hour period as the McLeod Fire threatened to race down a critical drainage and into folk’s backyards. Instead of 100-foot flames, the fire laid down to just a few feet — we caught and held it there. Ground crews were successful in making a stand along containment lines anchored into more than 2,700 acres of hazardous fuel treatments.’

“In the Entiat Valley, more than 12,000 acres of proactive fuels treatments on the Forest are credited with sparing the community of Ardenvoir from a wave of fire as the Cougar Creek Fire raced down drainage under 30 mph winds Aug. 11, 2018.”

-2018 Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Annual Report

See Page 16 of Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest’s 2018 annual report for more details (PDF, 4.75MB).

4. Yosemite West, California 

John Mock, Ph.D., and Kimberley O’Neil have been leading their community in fire adaptation efforts for the last 16 years. Last summer, their hard work finally paid off, or as they put it:

“As we evacuated our home, it felt as though everything we’d done was with this very moment in mind. All we could do at that point was trust that our efforts would work. And, they did. Yosemite West emerged unscathed from the Ferguson Fire, with no structural or infrastructure damage. It turns out that the very first shaded fuel break we implemented on the western and northern perimeters of our community was key. Firefighters lit a critical back burn within it and when the fire finally came at us with a whirl, it held.”

Firefighter briefing meeting

Firefighters preparing to light a backburn near Yosemite West during the Ferguson Fire. Their efforts were largely made possible by the fuel breaks the community had finished a few weeks prior. Credit: Kari Greer, USDA Forest Service shared via Flickr Creative Commons

Read more about Yosemite West’s fire adaptation journey in the blog post, Why the Ferguson Fire Didn’t Destroy Yosemite West: 15 Years of Wildfire Mitigation Generates a California Wildfire Success.

5. Milburn, Utah 

Another fuels treatment was put to the test last summer, this time in Utah. This success also had a palpable point of comparison, as the community didn’t fare as well when a wildfire came through pre-treatment:

“The Hill Top Fire spread in all directions due to high temperatures and erratic winds. When the fire advanced south, it aggressively hit the fuels treatment area that was intended to slow its progress and give firefighters an advantage. The treated area undoubtedly decreased the fire’s intensity. Because of the previously implemented fuels reduction project, the fire only grew to 1,861 acres and was 100 percent contained in five days. The low impacts and losses from this fire were significantly different from the Wood Hollow Fire of 2012 in the same area, which prompted the fuels reduction efforts in Sanpete County. The Wood Hollow Fire grew to 47,387 acres and resulted in 160 structures destroyed, 52 of which were homes.”

Read Three Successful Fuels Mitigation Projects Avert Catastrophes (PDF, 758KB) for more information.

6. Idyllwood-Pine Cove, California 

CAL FIRE and San Bernadino National Forest recently co-invested in shaded fuel breaks around the community of Pine Cove. Last summer, the Cranston Fire intercepted the treated area, and as a result, it slowed down and didn’t enter town. Building off their win, while also knowing a fuel break isn’t a guarantee, Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council recently awarded residential grants to leverage the existing fuel breaks and implement additional wildfire mitigation. Read Pine Cove Property Owners Association Hears How Fuel Breaks Protect Community for the full story.

Twenty-Two and Counting

When combined with last fall’s collection of 16 examples, this puts us at 22 instances of investments in wildfire mitigation generating more favorable wildfire outcomes. Know of an example where wildfire mitigation paid off that we haven’t covered yet? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

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