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Fire and Forests

Warner Creek Fire
In October of 1991 an arson fire burnt over 9,000 acres of ancient and second growth temperate forest near Oakridge, Oregon. Started in a roadless area, the Warner Creek blaze took two weeks to control and swept through areas set aside by President Clinton's forest plan as a LSR and protected spotted owl habitat.

An army of 2,000 firefighters and over $12 million in tax payers money went to controlling the fire. An estimated 3,000 acres were burned by the USFS as they built a 22 mile fire line around the area. Cool, wet weather finally did what firefighters tried to do for weeks and the fire was stopped. It was the 2nd largest fire in the Willamette National Forest this century.

From our vantage point we could only see part of the Warner Creek fire area. The area we could see was the most heavily burned. The fire was started at the bottom of the ridge and quickly burned up the hill. Although most of this part of the fire was stand replacing, like all fire it is still patchy. If you are interested in exploring the Warner Creek Fire area, trips to the area go through the UO Outdoor Program.

Smokey the Bear Forest fire is often perceived as a solely destructive, damaging phenomena which wipes out whole ecosystems. Most Americans can remember Smokey the Bear and his warning: "only you can prevent forest fires." Much anti-fire propaganda, including that from Smokey the Bear, is a lie. Take a closer look at the graphic to the right by clicking on it. Notice what it says on the middle left, "One match. That 's all it takes to destroy a forest and every creature, great and small, who lives there." This is at best a misleading statement, at worst it is blatant deceit.

Fire performs an important role in many forest ecosystems. Fires add to the diversity of many forests. Many forests are dependent on frequent fire. One of these forests types is Ponderosa Pine. It is interesting that the advertisement shows Ponderosa Pine as an organism that would be killed by fire when in fact our east-side Ponderosa forests are dependent on frequent fire.

Why, you might ask, are such clearly inaccurate statement being made in the name of Smokey the Bear. Chances are it has much to do with the Forest Services emphasis on commodity extraction over ecosystem integrity. Preventing all fire helps none in the lo ng-run; however, some companies think it will help them in the short-term. One last thing you should notice on the advertisement is the mention at the bottom that Weyereauser, a major timber company, is the campaign director.

Related Links


Are loggers behind the rash of fires in the West?

Pictures of the fire area

Warner Creek Fire






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