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Cascadians investigate Clark Fire at Fall Creek

[ Repost of article from www.CascadiaSummer.org ]

Last week Cascadians paid a visit to the Clark Fire which burned 5,000 acres near Fall Creek earlier this summer. The area is still off-limits to the public, but we wanted to get a first-hand account of just how bad it was...
...so we quietly hiked in after crossing the stream a ways before the road-block. The forest looked amazingly beautiful... stark contrast to the lush green forests we were used to seeing along Fall Creek, but beautiful nonetheless. Ferns had already begun sprouting back up through the ash. Scorched Doug Firs and cedars sparkled in the sunlight. Many trees were not burned at all, others were lightly blackened by the flames. Some had obviously been swallowed up by the flames, but appeared to be alive. Insects and birds were thriving in the disturbance.

However, in true Forest Service fashion the fire suppression techniques used at Fall Creek were horrifying to say the least. The most depressing scene was an 800-year-old completely healthy Douglas Fir, 7 feet in diameter, felled for no reason - with sap dripping from it like blood. Even trees near water were felled. Scattered throughout the burn area are trees marked with orange flagging, printed with skulls and crossbones and the words "Killer Tree". The tags were often found on large ancient trees that survived the fire. Loggers will be deployed to murder these "killer trees" so they can be "salvaged" for the insatiable appetite of the timber industry.

Afterwards we chose a serene spot in the burn next to the creek and spoke of the energy we received from the forest. Then we jumped into the creek and promised the forest that we would use that energy to defend it at all costs from the greedy timber companies now drooling over the opporunity presented to them by this natural disturbance.

The trip to Clark seemed all the more appropriate with Bush coming to Oregon to ram his "healthy forest initiative" agenda down our throats. With a fire "spontaneously" occurring near Camp Sherman, where Bush was going to have a fundraiser and push his deforestation agenda, one has to wonder if this isn't the future of logging: to use fire emergencies as excuses to log hugely-profitable ancient trees on a case-by-case basis while degrading the quality of the remaining forest with clearcuts and quick-burning plantations which will promote future fire "emergencies". Many recent controversial "salvage" timber sales have officially been declared unsolved arsons, and the backburn and fire-mediation strategies employed by the forest service often devestate more acreage than the wildfires themselves, creating rich habitat for the timber barons who profit from salvage operations. It would be nice if the billions of dollars wasted to subsidize the Federal timber sale program could be diverted toward the sound strategies of fire suppression though premeditated forest restoration, re-employing ex-loggers orphaned by a self-destructive and dying forest-liquidation industry.

homepage: homepage: http://www.CascadiaSummer.org

Burn down the government 22.Aug.2003 16:55

Nyle Alantin ysab@efn.org

Why not burn down all government buildings everywhere and the ancient politicions with them and replace them with a monoculture of 20 something students. Naw, Let's just not replace it at all. P.S. Whoever fells Ishtar is CURSED!


Arson in our public forests 23.Aug.2003 08:23

ecozeek ecozeek@yahoo.com

Just to clear up a little point. The fire near pResident Bush's visit was not one fire but two. BOTH STARTED AT ALMOST THE SAME TIME within 25 miles of each other. If it does not come out that this was NOT a coincidence, what can we do? Will the 'public' U.S. forest service have a proper investigation? How can we make sure?

The corpoRATe logging interests in this state are waging war on our future. We must fight back.

how convenient for shrub 24.Aug.2003 07:35


How convenient that when the bush comes here to talk about destroying forests to save them, some fires crop up to illustrate his point.

Understanding... 29.Sep.2003 10:28


Just a few comments really.

1) The US Forest Service is not without it's issues. In particular it is an organization that is fraught with bureaucratic issues that confine and restrain it in more ways that seems imaginable. The Forest Service cannot simply put people in to fight fire directly on the lines. Too many people have died as a result of this. The Clark Fire spread to the areas it did because of the terrain. I was there, I know. We were unable to get into most of the area that burned due to steep terrain and extremely dangerous burning conditions. NEVER should human life be lost to protect a few acres of underbrush and some trees.

2) The same bureaucracy that limits the US Forest Service aids all parties and hinders them. Because of issues with safety, environment, and fire behavior, the best way to put out a fire these days is to smother it in money. Firefighting is EXTREMELY expensive, butthere simply is no other way. At the end of the day I want to return to my wife, I want my family to have me there.

3) The Clark Fire was kept off limits to the public because of the killer trees that were within its boundaries. The trees that were cut down were trees that were on fire, or in a rare case, trees that obviously were giong to come down. I know, I was there and I made the decision to drop some of them. The trees that were all marked "Killer Tree" were not slated for execution as you may think, they were marked so that fire crws would know that these trees had been burned and quite possibly the fire either underscored their ability to stand, or had hangups and widowmakers in the limbs. We as firefighters need to know and see these obstacles and dangers.

4) The Clark Fire kept the public out because of these trees. Imagine if you will what would happen if the public entered the fire area and a tree fell upon them and killed them. The USFS made the decision to open the fire, therefore they are responsible for the loss of life, in essence, the US Government has killed yet another person. Therefore, the fire was kept offl imits until a major wind event had dropped the trees that nature would drop. Most of those killer trees will fall when fall creek gets its autumn winds, then it will be safe to return to the area.

5) While it is true that much of Fall Creek, and much of many fires these days, was burned by the suppression burnout operation, The damaged areas ofthe fire are not a part of that operation. Often the burnout does create a lot of damage, however, Fall Creek is not a good example of that. The burnout went well and provided an excellent underburn for the suppression effort. The "moonscaped" areas on the fire are very rare and are interior to the burnout. This occured because of the dry conditions of fuels nad weather and the steep terrain.

I am glad that none of you were hurt in your frolic through the Clark Fire. I would also ask that no ecoterrorism occur. I hate to see trees fell, I deplore it, but it is a necessity. I made the call to drop a lot of trees, I also made the call to leave a lot. Firefighters have many regulations that they have to abide by to maintain light hands on the lands we protect. Everything from spill pads near ANYTHING that may drip fuel, to roadblocks to keep the public safe. It is very bothersome and dangerous to have people hindering suppression efforts. Personally I want to keep the fires as small as possible and the damage as minimal as possible. We need to work on these fires to do that. Ecoterrorism is not the solution.

I don't have any answers. I am proud to be an environmentalist, though I may not talk to trees and magically gain energy through them, I respect the history and strength in them. Please try to see things from all angles and perspectives.