5 Aug 2009, 8:11pm
The 2009 Fire Season
by admin

Another Foofurb Blows Up

The Kootenai Creek Foofurb Fire blew up yesterday, almost tripling in size from 768 acres to 2,033 acres.

“Foofurb” is a euphemism for “fire used for resource benefit.” However, as is usual with foofurbs, no benefits have been elucidated for the Kootenai Creek Fire, no EIS created, and no NEPA process undertaken or envisioned. Even though the fire management actions promulgated by the Bitterroot National Forest have had significant impact, and the National Environmental Policy Act requires that such actions be preceded by a NEPA process, none were undertaken — in direct violation of the law.

The Kootenai Creek Foofurb Fire [here] was ignited by lightning almost a month ago (July 12). The Bitterroot NF immediately declared it a foofurb, a Let It Burn fire. They promised a long term plan which was never forthcoming. They announced no maximum burn zone or estimated date of containment.

On June 24 fire crews “temporarily securing the SE/SW corners of the fire by utilizing natural barriers and aircraft.” Then they left the fire smoldering.

Temporary is right. Yesterday strong winds sparked the embers and blew the fire up. From the Missoulian this morning:

Kootenai Creek fire: Blaze blows up - Heavy winds fan wildfire as it more than doubles in size

By Rob Chaney, The Missoulian, August 05 2009 [here]

Unexpectedly strong afternoon winds whipped the Kootenai Creek fire into a frenzy Tuesday, more than doubling the blaze from 900 acres to about 2,000.

The wildfire - which is being allowed to burn - started moving west along the steep canyon walls where it has burned since a mid-July lightning storm, then took a run into dense timber along the divide between Kootenai and Bass creek canyons.

The resulting plume of smoke could be seen throughout the Missoula and Bitterroot valleys. The fire is burning due west of Stevensville, two miles into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.

Bitterroot National Forest spokeswoman Nan Christianson said flames were running through the tree crowns and spotting across Kootenai Canyon trail and creek to the south. Strong winds were pushing it up a north-facing slope toward the ridgeline, and also toward the eastern mouth of the canyon. …

Tuesday’s late-day winds were so strong that [Stevensville District Ranger Dan] Ritter had to ground the helicopter flying water to the fire. No ground firefighters are assigned to Kootenai Creek, as it is being allowed to burn as a lightning-caused wilderness fire.

Fire managers intended to take infrared readings of the burned area overnight, then “we’ll decide what to do,” Ritter said. “It’s still in the wilderness and in rugged terrain. It’s too steep for hand crews.”

Because no buildings or private property is threatened, the fire will likely be allowed to continue burning. It is now the largest wildfire in the state of Montana.

Unexpected? Hardly. Strong winds blow every August across the Bitterroot Range. Unplanned? No, the USFS long ago declared a 4 million acre Let It Burn zone in Montana. Legal? No, nothing about Let It Burn fires are legal.

Are resources “benefiting”? No, the following resources are being devastated: vegetation, wildlife, wildlife habitat, soils, air quality, hydrology, water quality, recreation, scenery, public health and safety, historic cultural resources, fisheries and aquatic ecosystems, and local, regional, and national economies. In addition, long-term significant cumulative impacts will occur to all the above.

There is a purpose to NEPA, and that is to evaluate the environmental effects of Federal actions before they are implemented. Violation of NEPA can lead to environmental degradation and devastation. In this case, exactly that happened and is happening.

There are those who argue that burning the Bitterroot is preferable to stewarding our public lands. If they really believe that, they are welcome to make their case in a lawful NEPA process before inflicting devastation on the rest of us. However, making that case in the absence of a NEPA process, as an after-the-fact justification for illegal activities such as Let It Burn fires, is dishonest and shows a complete disregard for the law.

Those who sanction and excuse lawbreaking by Federal land overseers invite the worst form of government: tyranny and authoritarianism. That is not what America is all about.

Sadly, the largest fire in Montana is raging out of control and incinerating natural resources precisely because the USFS refuses to obey the law.

5 Aug 2009, 8:23pm
by Mike

The Wildhorse Foofurb Fire on the Kaibab NF also blew up yesterday. It ignited July 21 and was Let Burn. As of August 1 it was 1,150 acres. The Red Foofurb Fire was 585 acres. Today the two fires were combined and reported to be 8,394 acres. The Kaibab NF is famous for allowing foofurbs to burn out of control and incinerate old-growth ponderosa pine forests that are home to Mexican spotted owls. See Back to the Rim: The Story of the Warm Fire [here].

7 Aug 2009, 4:15pm
by bear bait

The Deja Vu fire. My spelling might be suspect. But aren’t they all?

So when my son, a logger, does something stupid, he either pays a serious consequence, or gets a can tied to his tail. But when government employees do something stupid and cause all sorts of mayhem, they get a pass. Hell, the agency gets a pass. The US Govt gets a pass. We can’t sue them. They are held harmless.

So if my “fire for resource use” on private land (like firing up the burn barrel — ecosystem health action) and it goes on Federal land, they now have three (3) fully armed, consigned, appointed, US Attorney teams to go get damages. The public estate can be damaged by a private party, but not by a government foul up. Go figure. And then let them own universal health care. Who will you sue when the surgeon leaves a soiled sponge in your chest? Can’t sue Uncle Sam’s employee… concept: you are shit out of luck. Won’t happen. Take your sepsis and live with it or not.

13 Aug 2009, 10:02am
by Matthew Koehler

Hate to disappoint you Mike, but the Kootenai fire has been doused by over 3 inches of rain in the past few days and it’s been dumping rain all morning again in Western MT… with more rain in the forecast for the next four days. This was a very difficult place to access, steep, with lots of loose rocks. I guess you’d rather our country spend millions of dollars sending young people into a dangerous situation? Thanks.

Reply: Thank you for your smarmy note, Matt. Perhaps you could explain to us your position on NEPA. Do you think the USFS should obey that law? If not, why does your group so frequently sue the USFS over alleged NEPA violations? And explain to us your opposition to forest restoration treatments that would prevent or mitigate the severe environmental damage that results from wildfires in fuel-laden forests? Why does your group sue to enjoin such projects? Do you think catastrophic fires enhance public health and safety? How so?

13 Aug 2009, 3:52pm
by Ned P.

I found it interesting when we returned from southern Idaho through Stanley, Idaho. There was a warning sign at Stanley warning that there could be a driving hazard ahead from smoke from a forest fire during the inversion hours. The wildfire they were warning about was the Eightmile Fire.

There was no smoke because the fire had been extinguished from the rain. What was interesting was that the State Transportation Department felt it necessary to post the warning several miles ahead of the fire.

I believe that people (including the state) are getting pretty upset with the Forest Service policy of “appropriate management response” or Let It Burn.

The wet summer will allow the FS to have some cold ones, this summer.

It was interesting looking at the results of the Cascade Complex Fires after two years. The wet spring and summer has resulted in very good revegetation in the pine grass habitats, much like what happens after a clearcut, which results in the difficulty we had in reforestation on these habitats. There is also a big build up in bark beetle activity especially the Western pine beetle in ponderosa pine. I talked to a ranch owner who was very concerned over beetles his ponderosa pine (that had survived the fire).

The fuel buildup from fire-killed timber and now the bark beetle activity will be tremendous. The next fire will be much more intense than the first fire. I don’t believe the Forest Service is even aware that they have created a real problem in the long run. They don’t seem to be capable of looking beyond the short run. It will be centuries before that country returns to what it was.

We found the people at Yellow Pine very upset over what happened and what is now happening.

13 Aug 2009, 3:55pm
by Carl P.

I second Ned’s observations. Regarding Eightmile Fire, the Forest won the gamble. The “unusual weather event” (that isn’t unusual) sometimes includes rain and cool weather. It all depends upon whatever weather cycle you are in. We seem to have shifted to a wetter and cooler summer that includes wetting rains and cooling (often even snow at higher elevations) sometime from mid-August to mid-September. I remember a similar period in the late sixties. Now the Forest thinks they really know how to do it. Right! I well know the humility that will come sometime in the future.



web site

leave a comment

  • Colloquia

  • Commentary and News

  • Contact

  • Follow me on Twitter

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

  • Meta